Board secretary at Animal Charity Evaluators. Involved with the EA movement since 2011. More info at Blog at


Seeking part-time contractor for Facebook group support

I would strongly argue against this, primarily because it is against Reddit's rules. Although subreddits do get to choose many of the policies in their own space, vote manipulation is a rule that is enforced site-wide.

Retrospective on Teaching Rationality Workshops

I anticipate these lesson plans being very useful! Thank you for sharing.

My siblings (aged 13, 17, & 25) and I have a twice-yearly event where I will pick a topic and teach them about it in depth. I plan to use one of these lesson plans in my next meeting with them this summer.

Retrospective on Teaching Rationality Workshops

The problem isn't that people with aphantasia can't visualize; it's that these people are generally unaware that they have it in the first place. (People who know they have it will correct for it in the same way that handicapped people will automatically correct for 'ableist' language.) Because of this, I'm not sure what kind of notice would suffice. I think saying to skip the sensory detail step if it doesn't resonate may work for people with poor phantasia; but for pure aphants like me, the phrase "struggle with sensory detail" won't pattern match to what's going on in my head. If you had asked me five years ago whether I struggled with sensory detail, I would have said that I didn't, because I didn't know that visual mental imagery was possible at all, and I would have thought that I had a lot of practice with memorizing elements in a scene.

However, people with aphantasia only take up 1-3% of the population. The 10% figure I cited earlier was for people who merely have poor phantasia: their visual mental imagery exists but it is cloudy, in black and white, and/or is generally not suitable for close inspection. For people with poor phantasia, I think the proposed sentence will work well, as they'll certainly realize that they "struggle with sensory detail".

Regarding the other senses, I can only really speak for myself. I have no visual mental imagery at all, nor can I simulate textures or smells in my mind's 'eye'.  Regarding sound, I can kind of hear auditory mental imagery, but not well at all. (If you tell me to imagine a cow's moo, I can think "moo", but can't reproduce a cow's belt in my head. If told to imagine raindrops, I can think "pitter-pat", but not hear the sound. If told to remember a song, I can runback individual series of notes, but can't hear the combination of several instruments.)

Anecdotally, I've heard many in r/aphantasia and elsewhere report similar lacks, but it is definitely not universal. A stickied post there claims that half of people with aphantasia report "being unable to simulate any of the 5 [sic] senses", but it apparently came from a reddit survey and has no other source. Wikipedia says that "many people with aphantasia also report an inability to recall sounds, smells, or sensations of touch", but they don't give a citation for this. This may be because the term "aphantasia" was only just coined in 2015 and there may not have been any proper studies yet that have focused on how many people lack mental imagery of senses other than sight.

Regarding whether the sentence will suffice, I say yes. It may exclude full aphants who don't know that others have visual imagery, but this is a very small part of the population. The sentence will successfully help people with poor phantasia, which is a far more significant portion of the population, so I think it is sufficient.

Retrospective on Teaching Rationality Workshops

For the Effective Planning section, when trying to get across the idea of a Murphyjitsu inner sim, you explained the process by using visualizations. "Imagine biting into this apple. ... Picture a good friend, and imagine talking to them. This is something that's familiar, that you're good at."

I, as well as 3% of the population, have a condition called aphantasia where visualizing a scene like this is impossible for us to do. Another 5-10% of the population have "poor" phantasia; they can imagine a scene like this, but not well at all, and certainly not in a way that they would describe as "something that's familiar" or that they are at all good at.

However, that doesn't stop us from being able to use a Murphyjitsu inner sim. I cannot visualize in the way that your lesson plan asks — I can't visualize the arc of a ball I intend to throw; I can't visualize pouring a bucket of water over a friend's head — and yet the thing that you're trying to teach here is accessible to me. I can know what my friend would do if I poured water over their head and I know where the ball will go if I do throw it.

I'm bringing this up because the language that you're using in this section of the lesson plan excludes people with aphantasia and may make it unnecessarily difficult for people with poor phantasia, even though people with aphantasia like me are perfectly capable of doing the intended ultimate lesson of querying what was likely to have gone wrong when we imagine that a plan has failed. We just can't do it by "making it sensory", as you put it in your lesson plan. 

You already covered this under your general recommendation to avoid the typical mind fallacy, so I'm sure that if you knew someone in your workshop had aphantasia you'd do your best to work around it. However, I wanted to highlight this atypical mind capability because of the potentially surprising fact that most people with aphantasia do not realize that they have it nor that it is unusual to be unable to visualize.

For people with poor phantasia that think that everyone else also has a similar mind, they will take your lesson instructions to imagine these things as an instruction to keep a running list in their head of all these numerous qualities (like how the apple tastes, listing what they see, whether it is hot or cold, whether there's something that they should hear), and this is the exact opposite of what you're trying to get across. While you're looking to get them to use imagination as a way of grasping a situation more easily, your instructions to visualize may inadvertently cause them to instead increase their cognitive load in trying to keep track of all the visualized elements. You say "Modeling a thrown ball requires a lot of effort, algebra, etc.", but asking people with aphantasia to notice objects, sounds, etc. in their imagination also requires a lot of effort, because they imagine in terms of lists, not in terms of a visual scene. This isn't a problem if they know they have aphantasia (because they'll correct for it without you having to say anything), but since most people with aphantasia don't even know that they have aphantasia, they will misunderstand your instructions and end up doing the opposite of what you're intending them to do here.

(For years when others tried to help me meditate by visualizing a scene that they narrated, I would experience a huge cognitive load of keeping track of all those imagined elements, which always kept me from being able to meditate. Counting sheep always made my mind more active, not less. It never occurred to me for 35+ years that my mind was different and that others experienced such visualizations as relaxing.)

An easy fix for this is to include a single line in the lesson plan about how different people visualize differently, and just explicitly say that if you have poor visualization abilities, then they shouldn't try to visualize in a way that makes it more difficult for them.

How to best address Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

One of the things Max recommends are mobilizations and stretching. While the links he provides explain why mobilizations may be important, they don't actually do that good a job of directly showing you the stretches in a video.

For that, you may want to watch Day[9] demonstrate the stretches people in the StarCraft community use before playing in a professional eSports match or before starting any serious practice session.

Introducing Probably Good: A New Career Guidance Organization

In addition to the other points brought up, I wanted to add that "probably good" has ~4 million google search results, and the username/url for "ProbablyGood" has already been taken on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This may make the name especially difficult to effectively market.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Also related is the idea that the moral value of additional information is high when there is relatively low resilience in your credence that the current intervention is best. This leads to the (to me) rather unintuitive conclusion that if you have two research paths that both look to be equally good to look into for potentially improving the world, then, ceteris paribus, it may be better to invest in the research path for which you have less evidence that it is a good research path to follow. From Amanda Askell in the link:

[I]f the expected concrete value of two interventions is similar, we should generally favor investing in interventions that have less evidence supporting them.

NunoSempere's Shortform

I suppose I just assumed that scale ups happened regularly at big NGOs and I never bothered to look closely enough to notice that it didn't. I find this very surprising.

The Vegan Value Asymmetry and its Consequences

No, the OP's argument is assuming that the lives of farmed animals is net negative. It's saying that farmed animal welfare might at most be neutral, which would mean that, on expectation, farmed animal welfare is harmful. Nevertheless, it would be less harmful than ignoring farmed animal welfare would be, which means farmed animal welfare is still net positive.

Meanwhile, the argument in your link argues that farmed animal welfare may be net negative, but it relies on the opposite assumption that the lives of farmed animals may be net positive.

Announcing our summer 2020 ACE Movement Grants

Before answering your question, it may help to get a little more context about why ACE Movement Grants exist, and how they differ from the charity evaluation work that ACE does. This is important because you may be overestimating the relative importance of individual ACE Movement Grants compared to ACE's Recommended Charity Fund.

ACE’s overall goal is to find and support the most effective approaches to animal advocacy. The main way ACE accomplishes this is through ACE’s top and standout charities, which receive the highest (by far) influenced proportion of funds from ACE.

ACE Movement Grants complement this program by helping to foster a broad, pluralistic animal advocacy movement, which makes it more likely to be more resilient than a narrow, monistic animal movement. The amount of funding received through ACE Movement Grants are significantly lower than the funds influenced through the Recommended Charity Fund.

Keep in mind that ACE is in a different position than other charity evaluators in the EA community, such as GiveWell. The available evidence supporting any given intervention is limited in animal advocacy. Of the funding that currently goes toward addressing industrial agriculture, ACE and related EA charities influence a majority of those funds. Imagine if GiveWell had much less evidence for their preferred interventions, yet they directed half of all funding to the entire cause of global poverty. In such a world, should GiveWell continue to only fund a handful of charities, or would they be incentivized to direct a much smaller amount of funds to help diversify the movement? The ACE Movement Grants program allows us to consider the effectiveness of the movement as a whole instead of being limited to supporting only a small number of approaches.

Encompass in particular helps to build relationships with a larger group of advocates, specifically people of the global majority. Their grant goes toward fostering racial equity in animal advocacy organizations, which has the potential to make animal advocacy organizations overall more effective in the long term. To learn more about Encompass, you can read ACE's 2017 interview with Aryenish Birdie, ACE's reasoning on why promoting REI might be effective, or the Encompass FAQ.

For more info on ACE Movement Grants generally, see the ACE Movement Grants page or any of ACE's blog entries on the topic.

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