Jonathan_Michel

I am working at CEA as the office manager of Trajan House, an EA Hub in Oxford. I studied Philosophy and Economics in Bayreuth, Germany and was one of the core organisers of the EA group in Bayreuth for about 4 years. I love Beach Volleyball, bouldering, vegan cooking, and laughing.

Please reach out if you want to chat about operations, office management, EA Hubs, diversity, and community building strategy.

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Do you want to work in the new Boston EA office at Harvard Square?

You can indicate uncertainty in the form, so feel free to fill it out and state your probability :)

My Job: EA Office Manager

Nope :D
Thanks for pointing that out!

Call for action for German university groups!

I agree that this is an important thing to keep in mind. Especially introductory events (talks, fellowships etc.) should be offered in German (or at least with a German option, i.e. one fellowship group which is in German).

Where would we set up the next EA hubs?

Very strong upvote. Thanks for commenting this Simon.

Native languages in the EA community (and issues with assessing promisingness)

(Meta: I am afraid that I am strawmaning your position because I do not understand it correctly, so please let me know if that is the case )

Personally, I am a pretty strong believer that the unique thinking style of effective altruism has been essential for its success so far, and that this thinking style is very closely related to certain skills & virtues common in STEM fields.  So I am skeptical that there is much substance behind claims #1 or #2 in general.  

I agree with you that it seems plausible that the unique thinking style of EA has been essential to a lot of the successes achieved by EA + that those are closely related to STEM fields. 

  1. The "core" thinking tools of EA need to be improved by an infusion of humanities-ish thinking.  Right now, the thinking style of EA is on the whole too STEM-ish, and this impairment is preventing EA from achieving its fundamental mission of doing the most good.

But it is unclear to me why this should imply that #1 is wrong. EA wants to achieve this massive goal of doing the most good. This makes it very important to get a highly accurate map of the territory we are operating in. Taking that into account, it is a very strong claim that we are confident that the “core” thinking tools we have used so far are the best we could be using and that we do not need to look at the tools that other fields are using before we decide that ours are actually the best. This is especially true since we do lack a bunch of academic disciplines in EA. Most EA ideas and thinking tools are from western analytic philosophy and STEM research. And that does not mean they are wrong - it could be that they all turn out to be correct - but they do encompass only a small portion of all knowledge out there. I dare you to chat to a philosopher who researches non-western epistemology - your mind will be blown by how different it is. 

More generally: The fact that it is sometimes hard to understand people from very different fields is why it is so incredibly important and valuable to try to get those people into EA. They usually view the world through a very different lens and can check whether they see an aspect of the territory we do not see that we should incorporate into EA. 

I am afraid that we are so confident in the tools we have that we do not spend enough time trying to understand how other fields think and therefore miss out on an important part of reality. 

To be clear: I think that a big chunk of what makes EA special is related to STEM style reasoning and we should probably try hard to hold onto it. 

2. The "core" thinking tools of EA are great and don't need to change, but STEM style is only weakly correlated with those core thinking tools.  We're letting great potential EAs slip through the cracks because we're stereotyping too hard on an easily-observed surface variable, thus getting lots of false positives and false negatives when we try to detect who really has the potential to be great at the "core" skills.  STEM style is more like an incidental cultural difference than a reliable indicator of "core" EA mindset.

Small thing: It is unclear to me whether we get a lot of false positives + this was also not the claim of the post if I understand it correctly. 


 

Some longtermist fiction

Thank you very much for creating this list! 

Related, see the contributions in this thread. Books recommended there which you did not mention:

Some longtermist fiction

RE: "Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks"

I would second your ordering of PoG>CP. To add to the ordering: IMO "The Use of Weapons" is also not a really good book from a longtermist point of view, while "Excession" is a great read (so I guess: Excession>PoG>TUoW>CP).

I would be interested in what other people thought about the rest of the books of the culture series - are there some books that are much better than others?

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

"The mark of a civilised person is the ability to look at a column of numbers and weep."

Bertrand Russell 

“Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.”

Mahatma Ghandi

“It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening.”

H. G. Wells

“Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation.”

Alasdair Gray

"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory."

Irena Sendler

“Why should costs and benefits receive less weight, simply because they are further in the future? When the future comes, these benefits and costs will be no less real. Imagine finding out that you, having just reached your twenty-first birthday, must soon die of cancer because one evening Cleopatra wanted an extra helping of dessert. How could this be justified?”

Derek Parfit

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

A few more wonderful quotes from HPMOR:

"And Harry remembered what Professor Quirrell had said beneath the starlight: Sometimes, when this flawed world seems unusually hateful, I wonder whether there might be some other place, far away, where I should have been… But the stars are so very, very far away… And I wonder what I would dream about, if I slept for a long, long time.

Right now this flawed world seemed unusually hateful. And Harry couldn’t understand Professor Quirrell’s words, it might have been an alien that had spoken, or an Artificial Intelligence, something built along such different lines from Harry that his brain couldn’t be forced to operate in that mode.

You couldn’t leave your home planet while it still contained a place like Azkaban. 

You had to stay and fight."


"Every time you spend money in order to save a life with some probability, you establish a lower bound on the monetary value of a life. Every time you refuse to spend money to save a life with some probability, you establish an upper bound on the monetary value of life. If your upper bounds and lower bounds are inconsistent, it means you could move money from one place to another, and save more lives at the same cost. So if you want to use a bounded amount of money to save as many lives as possible, your choices must be consistent with some monetary value assigned to a human life; if not then you could reshuffle the same money and do better. *How very sad, how very hollow the indignation, of those who refuse to say that money and life can ever be compared, when all they’re doing is forbidding the strategy that saves the most people, for the sake of pretentious moral grandstanding...*"

What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others?

Another one from this post:

"There may well come a day when humanity would tear apart a thousand suns in order to prevent a single untimely death.

That is the value of a life."

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