PhD Student studying how the immune system interacts with specific microorganisms


What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I'm not saying nobody has thought through the ideas,  I find the proposed alternatives to police fascinating, although I'm personally sceptical that they'd actually be better than the existing system - that's an essay all on its own!

My point was just that many people repeat slogans to express feelings rather than to advocate for concrete policy proposals, because everyone has feelings but almost nobody has policy proposals. (Myself included - I have opinions about lots of policy issues, if I'm honest I don't really understand most of them). I'm not saying we should dismiss ideas just because most people that advocate for them would struggle to defend them,  I'm just recommending against getting into arguments over the minutia of how community based restorative justice will actually work in the real world with people that have no idea what you're talking about! It's often more tactful to take people seriously but not literally, especially since slogans remove all nuance from the conversation and make it hard to know what people actually believe - saying "defund the police" could signal anything from supporting modest budget reallocation to literal anarchy!

I agree that treating "the Left" or "Progressives" as a monolithic bloc reveals a lack of understanding, but since Stalin and Hitler are much easier to argue against than what people on the left or the right actually believe, I'm not seeing this cheap rhetorical trick going away any time soon. We definitely should refrain from it though!

What do you make of the doomsday argument?

One reason I'm not convinced by  the Doomsday argument is that it's equally true at all points in history - you could make the same argument 2,000 years ago to the Greeks or 10,000 years into the future (well, only if Doomsday isn't really imminent) and the basic logic would still hold. I find it hard to be convinced by an argument that will always come to the same conclusion at any point in history, even though the argument is that we're most likely to exist at the point that it's true.

The problem with the analogy is that the urn is continuously filling with balls with higher and higher numbers, so pulling out one number at any point in the process tells you nothing about the future number of balls in the urn. That would require analysis of the urn and the ball-dropping mechanism.

For this reason, I find concrete existential risks much more convincing than the Doomsday argument.

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I worry that there's a danger in taking the ideas of the left too seriously, if I take ideas like "abolish the police" seriously,  I want to respond with the best arguments against it in order to have a productive discussion of criminal justice policy, and end up denying people's lived experience. I think it would be a very bad idea for EA to take the ideas of the Left seriously in any way that risks seeming critical of them.

Whereas if I  don't take the idea seriously and understand it merely as an expression of distaste for modern American policing, I can be much more compassionate and understanding. It's probably better to take the sentiment more seriously than the slogans.

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I think it's important to be clear that Scandinavian Social Democracy is not a socialist economy or a socialist government - I'm a big fan of the Nordic countries and think they'd be great to emulate, but (like all  countries) Sweden is somewhere in between "capitalism" and "socialism",  using taxation and a strong welfare state to ensure that the benefits of capital are widely distributed without total redistribution.  Based on the 20th century, I'm pretty confident that the optimal system of government has both free markets and government control.

I see the Capitalist/Socialist false dichotomy a a relic of the Cold War, with neither side able to admit that the other had a point. Total laisse fare Capitalism is pretty unpleasant for the people on the bottom, but it's the height of hubris to think the government can centrally plan the entire economy - and as soon as the Chinese stopped trying, it turned out pretty well for them!

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I feel EA would  be very interested in a socialist running a cost-benefit analysis of the global proletariat revolution, the 20th century has presumably given us enough data to make it less speculative than a lot of things EAs are concerned about.

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I wonder if it's a good or bad thing that AI alignment (of existing algorithms) is increasingly being framed as a social justice issue, once you've talked about algorithmic bias it seems less privileged to then  say "I'm very concerned about a future in which AI is given even more power".

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I honestly think that the progressive movement increasingly values Loyalty (i.e. you're not a real  minority if you're politically conservative) and Sanctity ( saying the N-word or wearing blackface make white people "unclean" in a way that cannot fully be explained by the Care/Harm framework),  so if anything I think Haidt's Moral Foundations theory is more right than even Haidt suspected, the taboos and tribes of the Left are simply still being defined.

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I found this helpful, I'm in a similar situation of moving from "social justice" (mainly concerned with homelessness in my own city) to Effective Altruism, and so am trying to think of good ways to engage people/slightly concerned that if we don't phrase things in the correct way the left may try to destroy us.

I wonder if talking about the causes of international economic inequality makes it seem more like an issue of injustice to be addressed from a progressive/social justice framework? That's one way I'd frame the issue when talking about EA principles to a left-of-centre audience.  I don't subscribe to a zero-sum view of development in which all wealth is taken from someone else, but it's undeniable that most currently wealthy nations benefitted from colonialism at the expense of the rest of the world, and we all continue to participate in an economic system that is pretty clearly constructed to benefit multinational corporations rather than individual producers. I'd  also argue that donating to effective charity should at least be part of living an ethical lifestyle, and that many of the other issues people may find more emotionally compelling, like human trafficking and exploitative employment, are primarily rooted in poverty. 

I also point out how basically everyone in the audience is in the top 10% globally, although I feel like this is probably less effective when talking to students since their wealth is mostly in the future. I've also found that the very progressive idea that everyone should be treated equally is one argument in favour of international aid, that x100 multiplier goes a long way! However, it is difficult to convince people that life for the poorest 10% of people in the world really is a lot worse than life for the poorest 10% of people in a wealthy country, although access to food, medicine and housing is probably the area that makes this clearest.

Also, use emotional appeals, although that's just good advice when trying to persuade humans generally, although ideally use this to support  rather than instead of facts and evidence, because we probably can't win solely based on emotional appeals. This is obviously easiest in the context of global health, AMF has loads of pictures of smiling children holding mosquito nets, and GiveDirectly has loads of personal stories of how people actually spent the money.

The Conflicted Omnivore

I think this described me for a while, I gradually cut down on meat until I'm now a lacto-vegetarian (at least when I'm buying the food, I'll admit I just visited my parents and enjoyed having an excuse to eat huge amounts of ham and turkey).

I think it's similar to other ethical objections people have but ignore, most supply chains degrade human dignity or destroy the environment in ways we know are wrong, but ethical alternatives are either unavailable or inconvenient, which outweighs the vague guilt we feel if we ever accidently  think think about it too long. 

As you point out,  making alternatives readily available definitely seems more effective than criticising the constant hypocrisy!  

Thoughts on being mortal

I really liked this post, at some point I'd like to read some of the books you referenced.

Ultimately, this is why I worry about the Life-Extension crowd, clinging to life as long as possible causes a lot of misery in our current medical system. I feel like we'd all be happier if we all just accept that our days  are numbered and try to make them count. 

The obvious counter-argument is that the transhumanists plan on staying young and healthy forever thanks to technology (medical or digital), but that's a lot harder than just prolonging how long it takes to die.

Load More