1225Joined Jun 2017


This is wonderful – thank you so much for writing it.

Mutual dedication to one another’s ends seems like a thing commonly present in religious and ethnic communities. But it seems quite uncommon to the demographic of secular idealists, like me. Such idealists tend to form and join single-focus communities like effective altruism, which serve only a subset of our eudaemonic needs.

Agree about secular, single-purpose communities – but I'm not sure EA is quite the same.

I've found my relationships with other EAs tend to blossom to be about more than just EA; those principles provide a good set of shared values from which to build other things, like a sense of community, shared houses, group meals, playing music together and just supporting each other generally. Then again, I don't consider EA to be the core of my identity, so YMMV.

(The image at the bottom of the post is broken, btw)

(I ask not just for selfish reasons as a fellow depressive, but also because making EAs happier probably has instrumental benefits)

Huge congratulations on the book!

My question isn't really related – it was triggered by the New Yorker/Time pieces and hearing your interview with Rob on the 80,000 Hours podcast (which I thought was really charming; the chemistry between you two comes across clearly). Disregard if it's not relevant or too personal or if you've already answered elsewhere online.

How did you get so dang happy?

Like, in the podcast you mention being one of the happiest people you know. But you also talk about your struggles with depression and mental ill-health, so you've had some challenges to overcome.

Is the answer really as simple as making mental health your top priority, or is there more to it? Becoming 5–10x happier doesn't strike me as typical (or even feasible) for most depressives[1]; do you think you're a hyper-responder in some regard? Or is it just that people tend to underindex on how important mental health is and how much time they should spend working at it (e.g. finding meds that are kinda okay and then stopping the search there instead of persisting)?

  1. ^

We should at least strive to get it above The Very Hungry Caterpillar (#21).

FGM is distinguished (beyond the forms in which it occurs) in that there are no medical reasons for doing it, nor does it have any health benefits for women

A small aside on this, which I found interesting:

if anti-FGM campaigners and organizations such as the WHO continue to play the “no health benefits” card as a way of deflecting comparisons to male circumcision, it will not be long before medically-trained supporters of the practice in other countries begin to do the necessary research. ...

I suggest, therefore, that by repeating the mantra—in nearly every article focused on female genital cutting—that “FGM has no health benefits,” those who oppose such cutting are sending the wrong signal. The mantra implies that if FGM did have health benefits, it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

But that isn’t what opponents really think. Regardless of health consequences, they see nontherapeutic genital cutting of female minors as contrary to their best interests, propped up by questionable social norms that should themselves be challenged and changed.


On a meta level, I'm surprised by how unpopular Sjlver and DukeGartzea's comments are in this discussion relative to others'.

For me it was seeing arguments made from emotion ("It is very clear that violence against men is less of an issue than violence against women", no evidence provided) when responding to comments that contained data on men being the majority of victims of violence. When challenged they performed a bait-and-switch by offering stats for sexual assault (which is indeed more common in women, and a deeply serious issue, but is a subset of assault generally).

Agreed that FGM is horrifying beyond belief. But the flippancy from Sjilver around male circumcision and its purported sex benefits to men (which are not backed by the evidence), accompanied by a winky face, were enough to earn a downvote from me.

[am stepping back from this thread now as it's getting a bit distant from the original post and I don't wish to derail it]

Quite horrifying, I agree. But scale is notable here: 6 times as many men are circumcised, so if the quality of life lost was 0.5% then the total lost utility is the same between the two groups.

And given that some number of circumcisions go wrong, leading to loss of sensation, pain during sex, rarely partial or total amputation and other forms of suffering ("the constant discomfort of a genital injury creates a covenant of pain," writes one individual with PTSD from the suffering from his botched circumcision), 0.5% overall seems really not hard to fathom. 

The benefits are minor (your comments elsewhere about better sexual performance are not supported by the literature), and not justified by the harms. This position has broad agreement from public health bodies. The UK's National Health Service, and many other like it, made the decision decades ago to stop funding neonatal circumcisions for this exact reason.

circumcision is probably legal nearly everywhere because these effects are small.

This just seems like post-hoc rationalisation ('it can't be bad because it's legal'). I could just as easily say that laws on circumcision are thirty years behind laws on FGM.

More likely is that the practice plays a prominent role in Abrahamic religions and attempts by countries to outlaw it (there have been a few) fall foul of laws around freedom of religion. Several such examples here, see e.g. Iceland and Denmark.

I'm touching the third rail here, but I think there probably is a nuanced comparison to be made that considers the different forms of FGM (including the prevalence of the most minor forms – involving making small nicks or pricks in the skin – which are less invasive than male circumcision) along with its prevalence globally (30% of men are circumcised while 5% of women have been subjected to FGM).

There's also the legal/societal/neglectedness comparison: FGM is widely condemned and illegal in most countries, with prohibitions extending across jurisdictions (in some countries it's a criminal offence for citizens to have FGM done in another country). Compare male circumcision, which is legal nearly everywhere.

... which arguably gives circumcised males the benefit of longer sex ;-)

I guess if FGM had some possible sexual benefits, that would make it acceptable?

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