James Herbert

Co-director @ Effective Altruism Netherlands
1005 karmaJoined Mar 2022Working (6-15 years)Amsterdam, Netherlands



I'm currently a co-director at EA Netherlands (with Marieke de Visscher). We're working to build and strengthen the EA community here.

Before this, I worked as a consultant on urban socioeconomic development projects and programmes funded by the EU. Before that, I studied liberal arts (in the UK) and then philosophy (in the Netherlands).

Hit me up if you wanna find out about the Dutch EA community! :)


Big +1, thanks for bigging up Imma (and the Dutch EA community!)

Yeah I think I agree with you, and I think considering those three levels to be appropriate is consistent with the statement 'I think most people should think of EA as little more than a hobby'. 

I feel like pushing the 'treat it like a hobby' thing is good at the mo because I see a lot of people in the EA community feeling they ought to do more, and then they feel bad when it doesn't work out, and that sucks. I worry they begin to tie their self-worth to whether they are a 'good EA' or not. I want to be like, hey, take it easy, you're doing a good job - y'know?[1] 

I'm reminded of when I spoke to a therapist at my uni because I was struggling with anxiety and perfectionism. I wanted to get the best grades and do great things, but in pursuing that goal so relentlessly it was a) undermining my ability to study well and b) making me unhappy. He reminded me that being a student was only a small part of my life. I was also a friend, a partner, a citizen, a son, etc., and these parts of my life were all equally valuable (if not more so).   

I might take a different approach if I was talking with a member of the general population. Rutger Bregman's School of Moral Ambition does that. He's very much, 'Yo, you've got all this potential, you should be more morally ambitious'. But then again, maybe I wouldn't because the most thorough definition of EA I know of is non-normative, and I'm glad this is the case. 

  1. ^

    I thought 80k's episode on altruistic perfectionism was great and we could do with more of it.

Thanks for the kind words! Glad you found my framing helpful :)

Oh but I did put 'donate some money' in my 'hobby' list - or am I misunderstanding you?

The latest episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast is about Derek Parfit.[1] It's an interview with his biographer (and fellow philosopher) David Edmonds. It's quite accessible and only 20 mins long. Very nice listening if you fancy a walk and want a primer on Parfit's work.

  1. ^

    Parfit was a philosopher who specialised in personal identity, rationality, and ethics. His work played a seminal role in the development of longtermism. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential moral philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

My quick take: I think most people should think of EA as little more than a hobby. 

For example, I like bouldering, so I often:

  • Practice
  • Do it with friends 
  • Consume content to learn more about it
  • Talk about it with friends (if they like it, I talk about it in detail; if they aren't really interested, I might just respond to a 'How are you?' with 'Good thanks! Got a new PB at the bouldering gym yesterday so spirits are high!')

So it's important to me and I get a lot from it, but it'll only ever be a small part of my life. 

I don't care if I'll never be a professional athlete, or even if I never win a local competition. I'm happy to simply do it, to hang out with others who like doing it, and to share the highlights with people who are interested in what I'm up to.

I think EA should be the same for most people. If they like the idea of helping others as effectively as possible, they could consider:

  • Practicing (e.g., donate some money and apply to the odd job if it looks like it'll be a good fit)
  • Doing it with friends (e.g., volunteer together, run a group together, start a side project together)
  • Consuming content to learn more (e.g., browse the forum occasionally, listen to the odd podcast, read the odd report)
  • Talking about it with friends (e.g., 'Hey I was reading about this cool charity LEEP and I think you'd really like em! They...' etc etc)

But that's it. It's not a big deal if you don't end up 'getting an EA job' or donating €€€€€€€€.

Would love to but didn't feel best placed/didn't have time. Just wanted to encourage people to disagree vote instead of downvote, or at least explain why they're downvoting.

Noting that I disagree with this comment so I’ve disagree voted. But I don’t think this means I should necessarily downvote it as well, which is what people seem to be doing. But please correct me if I’m wrong!

Looks like Charity Navigator is taking a leaf from the EA book!

Here they're previewing a new ‘cause-based giving’ tool - they talk about rating charities based on effectiveness and refer to research by Founder's Pledge. 

I'm thinking about power. I don't (yet) liken EA to environmentalism because power is far, far more centralised in EA. As you mentioned, this is probably because we're small and young. I expect this will change in the future.

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