Anon Rationalist

195 karmaJoined Jan 2023


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This is an excellent post, but if I may offer one critique, it would be that it doesn’t answer potential issues of change in population composition. Niklas’ comment mentions this to an extent, but, to be blunt, much of my motivation for worry about population decline and stagnation is a fear of current dysgenic trends, specifically in IQ. The negative correlation between measured IQ and fertility, both within countries and between them, underlies much natalist and transhumanist sentiment.

How can we “find out using evidence and reason how to do as much good as possible, and to apply that knowledge in practice" if some avenues to well-being are forbidden? The idea that no potential area is off limits is inherent in the mission. We must be open to doing whatever does the most good possible regardless of how it interacts with our pre-existing biases or taboos.

I think you have misread and misused the quote. It does not suggest following HBD to its "logical destination" (which in my mind evokes things like genocide and forced sterilization), it suggests that if EA were to accept different biological bases for observed phenomena, such as men disproportionately occupying positions of leadership, EA would then naturally progress to the idea that other observed phenomena (Asian and Jewish overrepresentation in cognitively demanding fields, for example) could be reflections of biological reality.

I think Jgray's comment addresses my other notion that your position on a topic being too toxic to even discuss in good faith perfectly fits Hanania's framework of the taboo.

Considering an EA group leader said that they would permanently ban anyone who brought up some of these topics, I am content in my choice of anonymity.

I generally agree that being palatable and well-funded are beneficial to effective altruism, and palatability and effectiveness exist on a utility curve. I do not know how we can accurately assess what cause areas should be of principle concern if certain avenues are closed due to respect for others' sacred cows. I think the quote from Scott Alexander addresses this nicely; if you could replicate Jewish achievement, whether culturally or genetically, doing so would be the single most significant development for human welfare in history. Regardless of taboos, that should be a cause area of principle concern, and would be if EA held such ideas to cost-benefit analyses instead of sacred beliefs. And as the lists of sacred beliefs grow, it further hampers other cause areas that would benefit from a rationalist mindset.

I treat posts based on their content rather than the author. I have no idea who different posters are, nor do I care much on issues unrelated to specific experience or expertise.

You are correct that my question was uncharitable and posted in frustration at a comment that I found detrimental to discussion. I should have said, and pose this as an open question: 

I agree that applying cost-benefit analysis in a manner consistent with EA principles to areas like zoning, drug approval, and nuclear energy are good. I do not agree that increased credentialism or additional taboos are beneficial to the stated goals of EA, for the reasons outlined in the article.

I would ask that you state specifically what you find horrible, what cause areas should be exempt from cost-benefit analysis, and why? The current comment, as posted, does not contribute to meaningful discussion by way of its vagueness.

Could you expand on this? What do you find horrible about the ability to recreate the success of Ashekenazi Jews among different populations, for example?

Because disaster giving (in a fairly developed country, especially) is the antithesis of effective giving. These organizations, especially now, are not neglected, and are almost certainly not as cost effective as something like AMF. Disaster giving is the textbook example of philanthropy based on bias instead of cost effectiveness.

I want to adhere to forum norms and maintain a high quality in my posts, but this is tempting me to throw all that out the window. Of course, I will read a summary if one is provided, but going over these chapter titles, this book could just as well be a caricature of wokeness. Prioritizing Black Vegans? Queer Eye on the EA Guys? The celebratory quote complaining about white males getting it all wrong? Not to mention chapter 11 sounds seriously reminiscent of degrowthers. “Sure, alternative proteins ended factory farming, but they didn’t overthrow capitalism.”

My priors on this having any value to the goal of doing the most good are incredibly low.

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