I have a background in engineering and entrepreneurship and am now running a small non-profit focused on prevention of antibiotic resistance. I enjoy gardening and beer-brewing. Based in Sweden and active in local EA groups there.
I can obviously only speak for myself, but for me just having this kind of conversation is in itself very comforting since it shows that there are more people who think about this (i.e. it's not just "me being stupid"). Disagreement doesn't seem threatening as long as the tone is respectful and kind. In a way, I think it rather becomes easier to treat my own thoughts more lightly when I see that there are many different ways that people think about it.
Actually my concerns are more practical, along the lines of Roberts comment, that this kind of thinking could be bad for mental health and, indeed, long-term productivity and impact. If the perception of self-worth didn't seem important for mental health, I would not care much about it. But it would be a sad scenario if we look back in 50 years and see that the EA movement has led to a lot of capable, ambitious people burning out because we (inadvertently) encouraged (or failed to counteract) destructive thought patterns.
I don't think there is a simple solution, but I think Will Bradshaw is on to something in his comment about the need to "generate community structures and wisdom literature to help manage this tension, care for each other, and create the emotional (as well as intellectual) conditions we need to survive and flourish."
I think I mostly agree with this, and I'd also like to clarify that I don't think this problem originates from EA or from my contact with EA. It is not that I feel that "EA" demands too much of me, rather that when I focus a lot on impact potential it becomes (even more) difficult to separate self-worth from performance.Different versions of contingent self-worth (contingent self-esteem, performance-contingent self-esteem - there are a lot of similar concepts and I am not completely sure about which terms to use, but basically the concept that how much we like and value ourselves is connected strongly to our ability to perform) seem to be a problem for a lot of people outside of EA, that also relates to the risk for burn-out.My thinking is that there are people with this issue in EA, possibly more than in the general population, and that even though it does not come from EA philosophy there is some relation between these types of self-worth issues and a focus on instrumental value. I'm not arguing that this is "right" or useful, I think it'd be a lot better if we could all have a strong and stable sense of non-contingent self-worth.
Interesting thought. I'm not sure if what I had was the mainstream understanding of Christianity, but I didn't experience that there was this kind of conflict in the same way. I'd think that the intrinsic value of being created and loved by God was not really something that could pale in comparison to anything. But I don't know, and maybe it's not very important.
I think there is a difference between justifying spending resources on our own wellbeing and being able to feel valuable independent of performance. Feeling valuable is of course related to feeling like we deserve to be spent resources on, but I don't think it's exactly the same.
Thanks a lot for this comment. I feel like I need to read it over again and think more about it, so I don't have a detailed or clever response, but I really appreciate it. The comparison to other things that have mainly or only instrumental value, and how much we actually value those things, was also a new and useful perspective for me.
Thanks for a great post!
Do you have any thoughts on how these kind of interventions compare to other alternative strategies to improve farmed animal welfare, in terms of effectiveness? For example compared to interventions to lower meat consumption generallty?
Yes I think including them in the local activities is the optimal start - just harder remotely and especially now during the pandemic. Thanks for the GWWC-suggestion, that could be a great remote alternative!
Thank you, that's great!
Good point. I'm unsure what the best practise in editing previous comments is - I don't want to change it so much that the subsequent comments don't make sense to another reader. Clarified now by leaving in the original number that fits with the reasoning around it while keeping the correction in brackets.