Topic Contributions


What moral philosophies besides utilitarianism are compatible with effective altruism?

There are chapters here on Buddhism, Orthodox Judaism and Christianity in this book on religion and EA. 

I think there is a simple reason why EA is compatible with many moral views: increasing welfare is an important element of any sensible moral view. Utilitarianism is just the view that this is the only element that matters. But any other sensible moral view will acknowledge that increasing welfare matters at least alongside other considerations. 
Plus: the element of increasing welfare has become more important in the past 3-4 decades since our opportunities for increasing welfare have increased a lot compared to the previous history of humanity. Thus, the 'utilitarian element' of any sensible moral view has become practically more relevant in the past 3-4 decades. And since EA helps us to exploit these opportunities, EA matters according to any sensible moral view.

Complexities of wedding gifts; Thoughts?

One thing to keep in mind: for most people the point of a gift is not to transfer an economic resource to you but to express something about the relationship they have with you (and they're willing for this expression to cost something; and, generally, we're willing as a society for this expression to come with economic inefficiencies: often, the giver chooses a gift (though less so at weddings) and the giver has much less information about the preferences of the receiver than the receiver). 

I think gift-giving is a psychologically tricky issue. I also think one shouldn't downplay the symbolic value in gifts -- rather, one should see the economic costs of a gift as a necessary cost for creating the symbolic value (rather than primarily as a cost for making a new coffee machine stand in the receiver's kitchen).

I just say this because often, donations to charity aren't a full substitute for a gift to the receiver: they don't fully create the same symbolic meaning. (I'd actually love to see a more general discussion of this: many EAs create fundraisers for their birthdays and I, personally, think such fundraisers partly miss the point of gift-giving)


Future-proof ethics

[Pre-remark: I have only lightly skimmed the post]

Just wanted to add a pointer to Tim Mulgan's book Ethics for a Broken World  -- given the similarity in framing: "Imagine living in the future in a world already damaged by humankind...Then imagine looking back into the past, back to our own time and assessing the ethics of the early twenty-first century. ....This book is presented as a series of history of philosophy lectures given in the future, studying the classic texts from a past age of affluence, our own time. "

Giving Multiplier after 14 months

I've given a number of small talks about effective donations to various non-EA audiences. In the end -- after having made my case for focusing on effectiveness in giving -- I encouraged them and said: "If my argument convinced you, how about making a start and using half of your next batch of donations for the most effective charities."

Do you see any problem in taking your research as evidence that this might be sensible advice? I know Giving Multiplier does something different. However, I wonder whether it's similar enough to be transferable?

Why do you find the Repugnant Conclusion repugnant?

There was a somewhat unusual short philosophical paper this year signed by lots of philosophers which claimed that avoidance of the repugnant conclusion should not be seen as a necessary condition for an adequate population ethics. I guess it's driven by a similar concern you have here: the repugnant conclusion is much less obviously repugnant than its name makes it seem.     

On Sleep Procrastination: Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour

I love this post. It singles out a very specific problem and tackles it very thoughtfully.

On website blockers: I have also quitted them regularly but since I have started using ColdTurkey I have quitted much less. I think it's better than other blockers. 

For myself, family life has done the trick of making me go to bed at a reasonable hour. But as soon as my wife and kids are gone for a day or two, I (regrettably!) just stay up forever. One of the reasons why I do so (and which doesn't come up on your list) is that my mood often happens to be very good when I stay up late and I also enter flow states more easily when working late at night.

Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions

And just to add a small comment: The country of origin does not only affect transport distance but also the legal standards for animal welfare (and to a lesser extent how much GHGs are involved in production). My impression is that many people overrate this. They think "Oh yes, there is horrible animal farming elsewhere  - but I only eat meat from my own country and surely everything is much better here." It would be nice to have something to counter this objection.

Ranking animal foods based on suffering and GHG emissions

This is really nicely done and it is exactly what many are looking for. Thank you so much! 

If it is to be shared more widely it might help to add a remark about how sensitive the results are to which country the animal products are from and whether they're organic or not. The reason for this being that many in the public sphere (and not infrequently wrongly) assume that this makes a crucial difference.

Space governance is important, tractable and neglected

This is tangential but I wonder whether there are side-benefits for unrelated areas if humanity collectively engages in thinking about how it would design a space governance framework. Some past thinkers used the literary device of utopias in order to think about real-world problems. In the same way, putting us in the mindset of creating rules for space governance from scratch could be a helpful exercise and helpful priming in order to solve other (short-term, earth-bound) problems. 

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