An extreme extension of utilitarian, rationalist, and effective altruist logic can blind us to the negative experiences of individuals and major flaws in the EA community. I fear that people within the EA community are not always taking allegations of harm seriously out of concern that (1) there is “more impactful” work that they could be doing than investigating such allegations, (2) investigating allegations of harm against prominent individuals may damage the reputation of Effective Altruism, and (3) some individuals are having such a “high-impact” that they don’t want to find them guilty of an act that may impede such effective work.
I overall agree with the ideas presented in this post and I think they deserve more attention. I think the above part is especially true. Its true that discriminatory tendencies in a community doing good don't erase its overall positive impact. HOWEVER. It does, how you state, exclude some people from helping. And if that "some people" is 50% (in some countries more) of college graduates, that seems like a real big problem.
Thank you for writing this!
I think this post is super valuable. The following is an illustration of my endorsement.
Humor has much more to do with error culture than is generally assumed. People who have a sense of humor put distance between themselves and the things they work on, and they don't immediately collapse if a mistake is made. "It is a damn serious thing to be funny," and by this they mean not only that it takes a lot of brain power to invent a good joke, but that good humor is based on deep and balanced seriousness. We need more of the latter, and a little less of the cramped ambition to point out every blunder to others.
Humor is an unheard-of advantage in politics, because it can be used to say many things that would be insulting if said seriously. You probably know the story of Winston Churchill, who considered his French to be quite passable, while French people who listened to him spoke without hesitation of a "massacre of the French language". De Gaulle later wrote that he learned English listening to Churchill speak French. In any case, Churchill had a sense of humor, and he used it as often as he used his bumpy French. To make his point particularly forceful, he did not simply ask de Gaulle to give way to British troops in Africa, but stated curtly, "Si vous m'obstaclierez, je vous liquiderai."
And by humor I don't mean a dull "permanent grin" or "making fun" at the expense of others. But the ability to laugh about the small and big shortcomings of life. Those who have a sense of humor can laugh at themselves. You wouldn't believe how many people take themselves insanely seriously, and how much more pleasant it is when someone doesn't take themselves so seriously for once. Don't you feel the same way: at length, there is hardly anything more annoying and boring than colleagues who creep along the walls all year in a rainy state of listlessness and put on an expression for no reason, as if they were carrying a sign in front of them that says: "Anyone who wants to get along with me must first reveal the dark secret of my thoughtfulness. For I am insanely clever and not a simpleton like the good-humored majority in the room I am in at the moment."
Of course, you can get smarter without humor. Newton was everything but funny, and still brilliant. Schopenhauer was profound, but certainly not known for his laughing fits. Henrik Ibsen was an extremely creative mind and yet not a paragon of hilarity, quite the opposite. But the reverse conclusion is also not correct: just because you put on a wrinkled face and turn up your nose on principle, you are not yet insanely clever. I prefer Benjamin Franklin, who was so amused by the stilted titles of the scientific papers of his time that in a letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels he philosophized just as turgidly about the disadvantages of farting and proposed a prize for the discovery of a pill "that shall render the natural discharges, of wind from our bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as perfumes".
I am so excited about this project.