Amber Dawn

4085 karmaJoined Sep 2019



I'm a freelance writer and editor for the EA community. I can help you edit drafts and write up your unwritten ideas. If you'd like to work with me, book a short calendly meeting or email me at Website with more info:


Topic Contributions

Not sure if you know, but GiveDirectly did have a zakat fund last year

I think @Daniel_Wyrzykowski is working on something in this area

I think it's a minority opinion in EA but I also think it would be worth it for EAs to produce lists of the cost-effective charities/interventions within causes that EAs don't prioritize overall, recognizing that some people may care about effectiveness but will be emotionally attached to certain cause areas, or (as you say) will be motivated more by selfish reasons or by a narrower altruistic concern for their loved ones. This might be an especially good idea for people who have expertize in that area.

When I posted about this, people pointed out that SoGive does a bit of this (for misc causes, maybe not for things like cancer specifically). 

Fund me to research interesting questions?

Here’s a list of questions/topics I’d be interested to research. If you’re also interested in one of these questions and would like to fund me to research it, get in touch: you can email at, DM me on the Forum, or book a chat. It’s a bit of a long shot, but you don’t get what you don’t ask for XD

I’m also keen to hear about relevant work that already exists. I haven’t done much work yet on any of these questions, so it’s possible there’s already a lot of research on them that I’m not aware of.

1. Why do people treat each other badly?

The world is pretty bad. Some of that badness isn’t caused by humans, for example disease and natural death. But lots of the badness comes from humans doing bad things to each other: abuse, war, and failing to save metaphorical drowning children.

Why is this?

Scott Alexander fans might say ‘Moloch’. Therapy people might say ‘trauma’. Evopsych people might say ‘it maximises fitness’. Other people, I’m sure, would say other things. Who is (most) right?

2. Antidote to the curse of knowledge

The ‘curse of knowledge’ is the phenomenon whereby, if you know about something, it’s really hard to explain it to others, because it’s hard for you to imagine not knowing what you know, and therefore what needs explanation. This is one of the fundamental difficulties of teaching and explanatory writing.

Relatedly, I think there is also a ‘curse of competence’: if you’re teaching or explaining a topic, chances are you have some natural aptitude for that topic or skill. If you’re a maths teacher, chances are you’re naturally good at math, and learnt it quite easily when you were young. This makes it harder for you to empathise with people who really struggle.

I think it would be cool to do some research into ‘systematic ways to bypass the curse of knowledge’. This could either be a technique that explain-ers and teachers could use themselves, or a technique for a teacher and student, or explainer and explain-ee, to use collaboratively. Such a technique might involve asking certain questions, developing a typology of ‘reasons people don’t understand a thing’, coming up with intuitive ways of ‘breaking things down’, etc.

(I expect there is some useful research and thought on this out there, so it might just be a question of collating/distilling it)

3. Could we make a society where everyone loved their work?

It seems like an awful lot of people don’t like their jobs, the thing they have to do for approximately 40 hours a week. This seems bad.

Charles Fourier was an early socialist/anarchist thinker. He had this (bonkers? genius?) idea that one could set up a happy society by forming people into units such that for every job that needed to be done, there would be enough people in the unit who were innately passionate about doing that job.
His idea was that you could drive production purely by exploiting people’s passions, so you wouldn’t need to force anyone to work with external incentives.

This seems… great if you could make it work?

I envisage that for this project, I’d start by reading Fourier’s writings and trying to extract the non-bonkers elements, and then move on to studying more prosaic ways that people have tried to improve working conditions, such as labour unions, workers cooperatives, even career coaching.

4. Surveys to work out global priorities

I’ve posted about this before. If we want to do the most good, it seems important to get a granular sense of what the majority of people in the world actually want and value the most. If the population of the world could vote on what I should do with my donations or career, would they want me to work on global health, or longtermist causes, or something else entirely?  

5. Getting ‘open borders’ into the Overton window and/or research into advocacy to decrease anti-immigrant sentiment

6. Ideas that changed people’s lives: substack/blog series

I want to interview people about specific ideas that changed their life, then write posts based on that.

What sort of ideas?
-theories or facts about how the world works (e.g. historical, scientific, economic, personal?)
-relationship skills (e.g. non-violent communication, authentic relating, ??)
-therapeutic techniques (e.g. IFS, CBT, ACT, loving-kindness meditation, ??)
-political ideas (e.g. critical race theory, labour theory of value, classical liberalism, ??)
-philosophies (e.g. Stoicism, utilitarianism, Quakerism, ??)
-practical ideas (e.g. productivity or planning systems, skills, ??)

What do you mean ‘changed your life’?

-made you decide to do a certain sort of work, or advocacy
-changed your day-to-day habits
-improved your wellbeing or mental health
-improved your relationships

I’ve started this one already as a spare-time project, but if someone funded it, I could afford to spend more time on it.

My hope for this project is it will both spread lots of good ideas, and also help me understand ‘how people and ideas interact’, which might in turn help me understand how one could best spread good/helpful ideas, if one wanted to do that.

7. Anarchism: ???
More of a broad topic than a question. I’m drawn to anarchism but have a bunch of questions about it. There is loads of writing on anarchism, so this might be less of a research project, more of a distillation project; for example, producing an ‘Anarchism 101 for Dummies’ explainer, or coming up with and framing anarchism-inspired ideas that could, with skilled advocacy, spread and catch on (for obvious reasons, I'm thinking less of political advocacy and change, more of cultural change or movements).

How much funding do you want?
Say up to £25,000, but (much!) less is also fine? I’m open to lots of possibilities. You could fund me to work on one of these questions full-time, or part-time, for a few months or a year. Or you could say ‘I’ll pay you to do 3 hours of research on Question 2 and see how you get on’. Or you could do something in the middle. Happy to talk specifics in DMs.

Will you research [other thing] instead? 
It very much depends on what the other thing is and how well it fits my skills and interests, but feel free to ask.

What are your qualifications to do this?
I did most of a PhD in Classics. I ended up leaving the PhD before finishing*, but for many years I enjoyed the course and produced research regularly, and I got some good feedback on my research.

I think I’m good at the type of research that involves staring at difficult questions, sitting with confusion, working with concepts, understanding and synthesizing complex texts, and thinking by writing. Happy to send you my CV and/or talk in more detail about my credentials.

*this was because of a combination of poor mental health and becoming disenchanted with my topic and academia in general

What’s the impact?
I haven’t done a detailed impact analysis for any of these questions, but my intuition is that they are all difficult to solve/make progress on, but potentially highly impactful if you do make progress. The impact case for me working on these questions is not, imo, that they are likely have more impact than malaria prevention/AI safety/other central EA areas, but that they might be the highest impact thing for me personally to be doing.

Questions? Feel free to DM, email ( or book a call. While I am shamelessly plugging myself, I am also doing writing and editing stuff: more details here


Thank you so much for this! I may get in touch to chat more about your experiences if I look into this further. The three organizations you mention are probably not a good fit for me because of location (I'm based in the UK), but maybe there are similar ones nearer me. 

I'm curious about why you focussed on high-skilled immigration. 

I think you misunderstood me - I'm talking about my innate motivations, not what I would propose as a general norm.

I think part of the lack of motivation is that I in fact don't viscerally see (my) public outrage having much of an effect. Like, you're right that it plausibly does. But I'm strongly liberal/left and I've spent most of my life under right-wing governments, having my social circles being vocally outraged about all sorts of things, and having the governments basically seem to ignore this outrage. 

Some thoughts on why I personally have done minimal 'calling for a ceasefire' type actions (I think I've signed a few petitions). I'm not sure all of these are reasonable, but like, here are the emotional or practical blocks I face:

1. Effectiveness: I agree that not everything I do has to be maximally effective. However, if something isn't fun, I want it to be at least a bit effective, and I've never been sure how effective letters to MPs etc are. I'd guess the more detailed and personal, the more effective - but in my experience, writing a well-researched and personal email of this nature is actually quite time-and-energy consuming. I'd feel more motivated to do this if I had some reason to believe it would help. (there are a few questions here: my influence on my MP, my MP's influence on my govt, my govt's influence on the Israeli govt). 

2. Something around sincerity and performativity??
I care a lot of sincere speech and sincerely-motivated speech. I feel innately most interested to talk about things that confuse me or questions I have, or to express an unusual opinion I havent seen expressed.  If loads of people around me are saying 'X is bad!', for whatever reason I seldom feel motivated to also say 'X is bad', even if I think it's bad

3. Complexity of the situation
I don't understand the situation that well. I don't mind about being wrong about something, but I'm aware that a lot of the reason I think Palestinians are the main victims and Israeli aggression is unreasonable are because people in my social bubble are saying that, and it feels bad to base one's opinion on that. Having done some more reading about it, this feeling has gone away somewhat, but again, doing enough reading to have a grasp on the situation isn't that trivial.

4. You can't do everything
I agree with your point that not all of one's time and energy should be spent on maximally effective activities. But I also think that it would probably be unsustainable if I spent all of my free/rest time on political/altruistic actions - I'd be exhausted and not have a good quality of life. You'll say 'well, I'm not saying you should spend all your free time on this' - but how much? There are lots of crises of this nature - how should I pick which to support? And then you're back to effective altruist ways of thinking about prioritizing! 

To be clear, the fact that I haven't done much about the war in Gaza weighs on me, but I also think it's not trivial to work out what I should do and whether I should even do something (given that any time I spend on it would displace either rest or work). 

This doesn't directly address your questions in the post, but it addresses the titular question of 'which products should we prioritize avoiding?' Ozy Brennan suggests that 'you can eliminate 95% of the suffering associated with your diet simply by giving up farmed fish, poultry, and eggs'. I don't know if they took the associated insect suffering into account.

This is a complex of questions on the theme of 'did you actually enjoy your job, and is this important?'

When you were earning to give, did you enjoy your day-to-day work and find it motivating and meaningful, even if you expected your largest impact to be from your donations? If not, was that difficult, and how did you deal with it? Is your impression that other EtG-ers had/have a similar experience? In general, is it important for EtG-ers to feel positive about their work, or can one compensate for a less good working life by focusing on the positive impact of one's donations? 

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