1Joined Oct 2015


Lucas. I'm with you. I couldn't help but think about charting effective altruism on the following venn diagram. I'm full of hope the benefit of conscious use of empathic communication outweighs the costs when it comes to perception and motivating persons to action. Why? I think present day neuroscience has grown robust enough to be anything but anecdotal about this subject. I also reason this science will only increase over time.

Present day cognitive neuroscience is quantifying how the average person can be consciously (or unconsciously) 'primed' by an auditory or visual exposure to a word or concept. (consider that current consensus is 98% of thinking is unconscious). Priming strengthens or atrophies neural networks for anxiety/empathy/concept etc.

I'm guessing you've read some George Lakoff when it comes to word use in morality/politics? If not, here's a couple representations of Lakoff's work.

What fascinates me as of late is the intersection of cognitive neuro and behavioral neuro in how profound cognitive priming is when it comes to death concepts and nepotism/hostility towards outgroups. This has profound implications for effective altruism! Apparently, if you unconsciously (not even consciously) prime typical persons with an exposure involving a death concept, then minutes/hours following the exposure there is a 35% correlation of increased nepotism in the primed group vs the control group. That results in a lot of hoarding resources and blaming/punishing outgroups.

Here are a couple metastudies to that end. (200 studies) A layman's documentary about it can be seen in the first video here I'm ecstatic the second video eludes to emerging research into forms of communication that decrease nepotism and increase altruism. I've yet to encounter and eagerly await a metastudy about empathic communication.

Effective Altruism Community, Autism Spectrum, Strengths and Challenges… Preface…There is emerging research that on the whole (emphasis) of secular folks are a slight (emphasis) degree higher on the autism spectrum. I'm not suggesting the median secular person has Asperger's. That would be ridiculous. I'm just saying a smidge higher on the spectrum. Having that disposition isn't necessarily bad, just different.

Now, I've only gone through a couple dozen behavioral neuroscience books. In that limited body of research, it seems logically consistent that on the whole (emphasis) of effective altruists (I among them) would be also be a smidge (emphasis) higher on the autism spectrum. What strengths and challenges might be inferred from this? For starters, on the whole, secular folks have higher IQs.

I'd bet good money, EA folks on the whole have higher IQs. Now of course IQ is just a measurement of logic centric intelligence, not the other seven intelligences like social adeptness. E.G. some Asperger's folks have higher IQs, yet lower social adeptness (struggle with social cues). Relating to, on the whole my secular friends are most brilliant when it comes to logical intelligence, yet have opportunity to better commandeer their neural networks for empathic intelligence/social adeptness.

On the whole (emphasis) these friends are less disposed to place themselves 'in the shoes' of persons with supernatural beliefs. This disposition inhibits their persuasiveness a smidge in regards to the realization of the 'worm at the core,' that perhaps 1/3 supernatural belief is unconsciously motivated by death anxiety. (hundreds of studies indicate this) Alleviate the death anxiety and you decrease the nepotistic behavior and increase altruistic behavior towards outgroups.

If you don't have time to watch the layman's documentary, here's a 5 minute article that skims the surface. The potency of which words or concepts people are exposed to (cognitive priming) does really have a profound (hugely statistically significant) influence on ensuing behavior.

I give the final example only because of its wealth sharing implications. I must emphasize cultural nepotism is part of the human condition and applies to ALL religious groups AND nationalities. Think about the following opportunity.

There are enclaves among our humanity with immense resources yet to a degree are driven more by unconscious anxiety than by conscious reasoning. I'll let you guys calculate the numbers, but I think 150M adult US Christians harbor something like $60T of wealth, whereas globally 2.9B worldwide Muslims and Hindus harbor only $21T of wealth…perhaps 60 times disproportionate per capita. If some of the forces driving Christian nepotism (e.g. death anxiety) are alleviated, how much compassion could be shown to our fellow gentile man? Are their resources great enough to learn the long term cognitive sticks and carrots that move them to assimilate effective altruism into their consciousness?

Scientists, CEOs and secular folks all have wealth. How much wealth? Someone will have to investigate it, but intuition tells me it pales in comparison to the demographic of religious folks. When targeting an audience more concentrated with scientists, CEOs and secular folks, non-emotional words is likely most effective. You guys are doing an amazing job! I'm new to this and haven't searched to see the target demographics of various EA orgs. However, science contends when separately going after a different animal like religious folks, different priming will render better results.

Thanks again Lucas! I think the opportunity and science behind all of this is more than robust enough to warrant further effort in the effective altruism community.