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TL;DR silly critics to long-termism, can you convince me to keep donating to EA funds?

See positive arguments and introduction below. The following are supposed to be naive Critics/questions:

  1.  Utilitarianism critics. Even with the newer formulation of long-termism,
    1. Why should I care about people that won't exist? Say we go extinct, then what? (like in the movie "Her", this could be the smart choice). I'm more on the pro-abortion side of the discussion here. Why should X-risks be costly because of their opportunity cost and not because of the immediate suffering?
    2. Do we care only about humans? Isn't out there any silly argument like "we should cultivate X insect because there will be a lot of them and a lot of lives means a lot of happiness"?
    3. Definitely not clear what is good in the long run (nor what's good now). True or false?
  2. Privilege/anti-capitalism critics,
    1. This is more of a feeling. Is long-termism supporting capitalism? Doesn't the immediate solution of the world's most pressing problem require a systemic change? Is it the only discourse that can adapt to the current state of affairs instead of demanding an urgent change?
    2. On the same line, how are the preferences of non-privileged (e.g. poor) people taken into account when defining what is "effective"?
    3. Does this view incentivize the acceptance of suffering in the present moment and in future present moments?
    4. Is this view trying to solve the existential crisis arising when imagining a future with a sustainable but not growing (e.g. population) society?
  3. Other
    1. The expected discounted return seems more appropriate because the probabilities of changing our preferences grow with time. True or false?
    2. How something that feels that bad (ignoring current suffering to prioritize maybe future happiness) could be right? 
    3. Is this a justification to natural selfishness (e.g. not giving up all we "can" give up)?



Hi everyone! I have read some of the posts on long-termism. Maybe one hour of reading, which is obviously not enough given the time  devoted and depth achieved by people around here. However, I still feel the idea is terrible, which is why I compiled the previous naive list to have each point refuted. I definitely don't like seeing the funds giving money to already privileged people (arguably more than me), but I trust there is a good reason behind. Please add a "IMO" before each phrase.

The most compelling pro arguments for long-termism investing are: 1- it makes sense for good investments to be counter-intuitive (because they are the most neglected and they wouldn't be neglected if they were intuitive) and 2- long-termism is more about the coincidence between the correctness of globally good actions and the correctness of those actions in the long term future. 

Any Too Long Didn't Read - like answer will be very appreciated 

Dear Louis,

Thank you for your kind reply. Luckily, I have read the book Why Nations Fail some time ago, the idea that political and economic inclusion prevents stagnation and is better in the long run is appealing.  After reading that, I became integrating institutions in my views.

You made me realize that the question "what's enough for one's ambitions?" does not have a clear answer. Balancing fun, well-being and impact seems the right way to go. However, it is sometimes hard to accept that (by definition) there is always an impact level we won't ever reach.

Coming back to institutions.  Do you think I should aim to create them or to help them as an employee?

These are doubts I have been accumulating, I started writing the list of questions and it's huge. Sorry. Please feel free to answer only one or just link a resource.



23. Signal processing engineer. In prestigious AI master in Paris. I have published and worked with AI applied to energy.


despair for not being able to make a significant difference, intensely considering the idea of starting companies that change the world (vs PhD), worried about how to find interested and capable people outside developed countries, looking for a tutor.


1 - what does the community think about starting a company? I find that companies can scale, be self-sustainable and be a great force for good. However, I haven't seen a lot written on this. Do you see profit and doing good as incompatible? 

2 - related to last question. What about the general idea of starting a company in a market X and competing by reducing the profit margin? Isn't that good for humanity? I imagine things like food, shelter or transport being cheaper.

3 - I am very afraid of the opportunity cost of taking a PhD path. I like my area (AI), but I don't see  myself developing any huge breakthrough. I'm thinking about breakthroughs as information theory, or alexnet moments. I think we don't really know yet what AI will be like, so I don't think there are well posed questions in AI safety (a lot of work is assuming RL=AGI). In the other hand, maybe I can create cool things outside or cultivate abilities that are very important (human relations). What's your take in this opposition?

4- Where can I find a tutor? I wish I had one when I was a teenager. I find most researchers are happy with contributing a little bit to a very specific area of science. Is that all we can do? All my potential tutors are on the academic world and/or don't think a lot about making a BIG difference.

5- What do you think about "slow motion multitasking"? I saw the concept in a ted talk, is the opposite of specializing, but promises better results in the long term.

6-I'm from south america (SA), although doing my masters in Paris at the moment. Is not very easy to find very capable people interested in making good I can work together with in my home country. What do you recommend to gather such a team?

7-Living in Paris was mindblowing. The difference vs SA is subtle and not that obvious, but huge. Why aren't we working more outside the developed work? I find there is a bias in tech and research towards the tech wealthy people will use.

8- How do you personally manage the feeling of despair when realizing the we (as individuals) can not change the world?

9-Does the community support capitalism and/or free markets? If not, do you have an alternative in mind? This could permeate the given advice. To which extent?