Working (15+ years of experience)
51Joined Jun 2022


I've spent my life thinking about how love exists in society, mentoring and coaching, community organizing, movement organizing.  

How others can help me

I'm thrilled to discover the EA/Longtermist movement. My old movement died, I'm in need of a new movement. Maybe there's a spot for me.

How I can help others

As I mentioned in one of my comments on this forum, I love generative friendships...friendships that also generate new things in the world. 


Wow Lawrence great post. I have been beating a similar drum for some years. I am a humanist/Universalist but previously I was a Christian pastor, and I have No negative thoughts toward religion, in fact as a Universalist I admire all religions and as a humanist no religion. But like you I understand there is so much good useable stuff to be mined from religion. I think Anabaptists are also similar in many ways to Quakers and I’ve learned so much from them, though never a member myself.

As a community of Altruists wanting to reach peak effectiveness it seems so obvious to me we should do what you’re saying. The single greatest altruist communities on earth today are religious communities and it’s always been that way…Universities as a thing, hospitals as a thing directly created by religious groups. Research and Science all comes from religious origins. Of course religion in Europe got so toxic just at the same point the scientific revolution took off that science was a meaningful refuge away from religion…you could have a life that made sense and do good things in the world for the first time away from the toxic religious situation at that time so educated people began fleeing religion. That set up the current unfortunate situation of secular humanists looking down their noses at religious people, culture, etc. I feel it’s a pendulum thing where they had to swing away, to escape the toxicity of hundreds of years of European religious wars following the reformation in 1500’s but now we can swing back and realize how much good was in religion as you’ve shown.

Religion has these swings itself, where it goes good for some years and then usually gets a taste of political power and swings towards doing bad. I experienced this swing when the religious right in the 80’s discovered they could elect Presidents and Legislators and grabbed the power leading to the current poor state. I was in a big movement in the 90’s and 00’s where basically a bunch of us ejected ourselves out of the horrible directions things were going and started an alternative movement much inspired by Quakers, Anabaptists and others, called the Emerging Church Movement. It was a bunch of young leaders wanting to go in a way different direction and lead to a lot of great things. Unfortunately it was too white and male and we decided to lay it down and let others not white and male lead us forward…a very good death.

One example of a useful thing for EA is cross cultural communication. For millennia religious people have crossed borders to communicate their messages…motivated by pure pragmatism they slowly but surely got good at it. My Bachelors degree is 50% exactly that…we got into it at a deep level. It has helped me so much in so many areas of life over the years. I think EA needs it in this way — to cross the cultural divide between Elite/STEM culture and creative/business and working class culture. For EA to grow and prosper these folks need to come in and there is a lot of work to be done to be able to communicate to them in ways they feel culturally comfortable with. That’s the goal of cross cultural communication- for the other to hear you in their own language and culture, the place they feel comfortable.

Here’s where I think the trajectory of your post can be very fruitful…it’s not so much setting up a bunch of EA groups to study Quakerism…I doubt that would happen, rather it’s just to culturally swing the pendulum to a place where elite academic STEM people just feel comfortable and are more accepting of religious people and ideas, and lose their penchance to dismiss them, but rather have a new curiosity and openness.

This becomes pragmatically hugely important if you found a new charity in Africa or South America or Asia and find yourself needing to work with stakeholders locally that are frequently going to be religious. Then you are forced to get more religion friendly…why not start now and be ready.

Yes I think they are all involved I spoke this time only of desire…and thanks for the idea of low level, higher level.

If we look at agency - you can choose your path, desire plays a part in the choices…selfhood - a sense of self and desire to know oneself as well as desire to mold oneself…need - biological need to eat, desire to eat, very similar. My point is they are all mixed up together in what is mind or consciousness…I spoke of desire because of how it is a motivator toward actions and seemingly needed to get much done and if AI doesn’t have it what will it do separately from us?

Yes good point, but maybe there’s a difference between original unprompted desire, and prompted desire…AlphaGo is prompted to play and seek to win. Humans generate their own original desires.

But also I’m only looking at desire as one aspect, not as the defining characteristic of consciousness…and I would say the monk has a very strong desire - played out over years of hard work - to purge his mind of desires :)

These comments definitely get me thinking, thanks.

We come at this from very different directions but I like very much the paragraph about human ability to model the unseen as both a strength and weakness. It truly is an amazing ability from a cognitive perspective, from my perspective it is both the fount of the arts and of harmful religious behavior. A blessing and a curse in one, as the word cleave can mean to stick together or to separate apart.

When you think deeply like this as a human can you imagine given your experience working in AI that an AI could also write this post someday? Will AI self criticize its own cognitive issues? Or anticipate potential cognitive issues?

My separate question to you while I have you here is that of desire. Humans often originate thoughts because their flesh has a desire…this physical body desire for comfort, love, companionship, hunger, etc will inspire thoughts leading to actions. If AI has no body, what will itch it to scratch? Why would it develop agriculture to feed what? Why would it study nature if it had no need to live beside nature? And without those initiating desires could it ever be as robust as human intelligence?

Yes and I can say from experience that trying to “fix it” can lead to other problems, for example throwing out the old and forcing in the new…the original organic relationships are very valuable and can’t be artificially replicated…but it’s simply opening up more and that may require infrastructure modifications that add but don’t subtract.

As an outsider slowly trying to scratch my way in…and as a person who was a founder and tight buddy of other founders of a former movement I was in, it is challenging and this post is encouraging. We had this same problem in my previous movement, it’s a normal thing, and it’s just one of those things you have to become aware of and work to overcome by, for example, asking you the author to write a follow-up post on some practical solutions after you’ve had some time to discuss this post with people and get some group-think wisdom going.

One obvious issue is simply that in the search for great new ideas it’s not likely that a small insular group is going to generate enough of them…outside thinking, foreign thinking has to stream in or you get stale and die. Think still water with no flow.

Anytime you can make outsiders feel heard and understood and hopeful of getting in you are doing something of great value. Thank you.

Hi Kat, I've read some of your stuff and I love your thoughts, your attitude, your vibe. I just wanted to respond to this lovely post...your very open and human willingness to constructively criticize or self-audit or whatever you want to call it, is amazing...I see in it a particular quality I'd like to comment on because besides yourself, I think it might be common to the kinds of people drawn to you mention you had wanted to start "Scientific World Changers" then discovered a different way of saying a similar thing "Effective Altruism" you like many in EA have a scientific bent. Which is wonderful of course. But I don't have that.  I've spent my whole life in Art and Social Activism and Religion (now I'm not religious anymore but I did it as a profession and spent 30 years going at it hard)...anyways being a person of a very different "bent" than you and a lot of EA'ers I found your beautifully written words in this post very interesting in this way;  You seem to have this science based expectation that things should go as scientific laws dictate...if you input correct stuff and the theory is correct then results should always come out the same every time - scientific method experienced! Wonderful...and then so insightfully you explain in your experience, and to great frustration this often doesn't share the "epistemic angst" producing work of Eva Vivalt which coincides with your own hard earned experience...amazing life experience you've had these ten years, and I feel compassion reading this account of it...and so this expectation of some kind of scientifically consistent results contrasted with real world leaves you with this hard earned wisdom that "you know nothing of doing good in the world" - yet - just as in your example that we are monkeys and even though we are monkeys who've gone to the moon (ie. the science worked) we are still monkeys, Kat has learned she doesn't know anything about doing good, yet Kat has started a shitload of charities that are doing good (ie. the Kat good doing worked)...and so here's my thought, or perspective to offer you...nothing at all counter to your amazing post, but simply to say, there's a whole world of us humans who don't have "scientific expectations" as I imagine you and many EA'ers have...and as a result we kind of just do things and just kind of accept the results and don't worry too much because we just thought we'd do our best and didn't have particularly specific expectations of how it would work out. And some of us are like Kats who've started a shit ton of great stuff and it mostly worked out like your stuff. Now I know many would react that yeah that's why all the non-scientific people get such shit results, and we scientific world changers are trying to be more effective in getting our shit done!  Yes I love you all and thank you all and if it weren't for you I wouldn't be typing on this computer because there's no f'ing way my types would have ever invented a computer. But we did invent meditation, and songs, and poetry and some other cool just to say, there's another way to approach life which is not so scientific and it has some very good results...and that we both need each other, our two sides, and to find balance we could gain a lot from the other sides perspective. As an artist/spirituality/social thinker person I'm deeply enjoying wading in the EA scientific way of life. I'm learning so much every day. I do worry though that you guys are going to freak yourselves out on too much doom of unaligned AI causing us to ruin the millions of longterm future humans who will never get to live because we f'ed up AI's like imagining our screw-up holocausted all future humans...that's a heavy load to carry...and thus my comment. Thanks. 

This is hilarious. I would in addition love a full article on how to best write the summary and the epistemic thesis/effort etc. at the top of forum would be preferred

Well yes you’re right I was trying to point to the hidden realities of certain jobs, and it’s true many kinds of lawyers have to do some demeaning pandering but actually the best kind of legal work is in the EA non-profit sphere, here you can fight the good fight and in a sense your clients are the poor and disenfranchised you are fighting for, or say a good cause like AI alignment. I should have said that in my original comment. :)

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