James Aitchison

32Welwyn Garden City, UKJoined Jun 2021

Bio

I am researching philosophy and EA ideas after a career in finance and real estate. See my website http://jamesaitchison.co.uk

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What We Owe The Future is out today

I have relished 'The Will MacAskill Festival' - this month's blizzard of podcasts and articles promoting the book.  You and your team should be congratulated on the consistently high quality of this extensive material, which has always been professional and informative and has often been inspiring.   Up to 17 August I have found  ten podcasts appearances and eleven articles which I have listed with links and my brief comments here. Well done and thank you!

Changing the world through slack & hobbies

Thank you for a valuable post and for the interesting links provided. I am sure you are right that much value comes from individuals pursuing their passion for EA in their own time.  

My experience has been that the  time available for independent intellectual or altruistic pursuits varies over a lifetime.  When demands from children and career peak, it is hard, but  I recommend keeping jotting down ideas, using commuting time for reading or listening and trying to stop work absorbing all your thinking capacity.  Later, career changes or (as in my case) early retirement can provide slack and the opportunity to do more.   

A philosophical review of Open Philanthropy’s Cause Prioritisation Framework

Thank you for this fine post, full of important ideas.  I particularly appreciate the effort taken to explain everything clearly and to provide useful references. For context, I recommend OP’s blogpost,  the seminar and Alexander Berger’s comments on your post.  

I very much support your aim of trying to formalise our ends. Your post shows how many deep and important issues arise when thinking about ends, even just for global health and welfare philanthropy.  It is a rare ambition to set out fundamental objectives, so OP should be praised for putting together a usable framework, and being open to improving it.
 

You make a striking point that it may not be valuable to save the lives of unhappy people.  I hope Alexander Berger is right that most of our beneficiaries have positive lives.  
 

You reach the modest conclusion that OP should accommodate a diversity of views about ends.  This may be sensible now, but perhaps our thinking  about ends will progress and converge over time.  We keep going!

EA Dedicates

Worth adding that there is also a historic aspect to the Dedicate /  Non-Dedicate distinction in that EA’s origins were in more of a totalising, thrifty, monkish, Dedicate approach and over time Non-Dedicates have become more significant.  

Will faster economic growth make us happier? The relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to Progress Studies

Thank you for a super, clear, comprehensive and well-argued talk setting out your up to date understanding of the Easterlin paradox.  Great to have the references which I have been checking out.  I am pleased you went in to depth on scale shifts as I suspect that generational changes in what is meant by a good life is  the biggest challenge to definitively concluding  that economic growth does little for life satisfaction.

Seven ways to become unstoppably agentic

I love this post, it is so engagingly written.  And the links are great, and have opened up valuable new ideas and sources for me.   I strongly recommend your list of further reading and. indeed, all the links you provide.

You and your sources make the case for a number of very valuable ideas including  asking for help, using social media, writing blogs, taking action, taking risk.  How far to pursue each of these will obviously depend on personality and circumstances and will be a matter of balance. 

Seven ways to become unstoppably agentic

I love this post, it is so engagingly written.  And the links are great, and have opened up valuable new ideas and sources for me.   I strongly recommend your list of further reading and. indeed, all the links you provide.

You and your sources make the case for a number of very valuable ideas including  asking for help, using social media, writing blogs, taking action, taking risk.  How far to pursue each of these will obviously depend on personality and circumstances and will be a matter of balance. 

Lifeguards

How much should you do ‘off your own bat‘ (to use the British cricket idiom)?  Well, most value  comes from people working in their roles, or from working with others to create change, but sometimes there are opportunities that would be missed without an individual going out on a limb.

I'm interviewing Oxford philosopher, global priorities researcher and early thinker in EA, Andreas Mogensen. What should I ask him?

What books or papers have been most important for Andreas?  What books does he recommend that EAs should read?

The Strange Shortage of Moral Optimizers

Thank you for this article, full of nuance. 

I think what makes effective altruism unique is that it is trying without preconceptions to work out how to do the most good.  Beneficentric people may help neighbours, or civic groups, or charities, or religions, or pressure groups, or political parties, but these different approaches are not ranked by effectiveness.  

There have always have been some saints, but it is a new idea to try to be an impartial moral maximiser, working through an information-hungry  social movement.

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