All of Meadowlark's Comments + Replies

Why I prefer "Effective Altruism" to "Global Priorities"

Thanks for this response! This is helpful, but I still have uncertainties.

Take conferences as an example. Conferences can only be about so much, obviously given their limited time and bandwidth. Should we expect that EA conferences in the next ten years (let's say) will have all of these things? That Session A will be about how veganism is necessary (or unnecessary) and that Session B will be about how it only makes sense to focus on the longterm? 

I think it seems possible that you're right, but also EA is still very young and has already changed a lo... (read more)

Why I prefer "Effective Altruism" to "Global Priorities"

Thank you for this post. This is a really fascinating discussion. I'm not entirely sure which "side" I end up on (or, of course, maybe there's another name that would be better than both that hasn't been proposed). At first I wasn't sure, but I might agree that GP sounds more arrogant than EA. Or at least they're both pretty close. 

Honestly, this whole debate—and similar recent ones— has made me very confused about what EA is at the moment. I look back to the pitch that I gave my college roommate about doing more good by being thoughtful and deliberat... (read more)

I think it can be all of this, and much more. EA can have tremendous capacity for issuing broad recommendations and tailored advice to individual people. It can be about philosophy, governance, technology, and lifestyle.

How could we have a movement for effective altruism if we couldn’t encompass all that?

This is a community, not a think tank, and a movement rather than an institution. It goes beyond any one thing. So to join it or explain it - that’s a little like explaining what America is all about, or Catholicism is all about, or science is all about. You don’t just explain it, you live it, and the journey will look different to different people. That’s a feature, not a bug.

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

I think I more or less agree with you. However, I think my point wasn't about longtermism, but rather just the difference between the project that DGB was engaging in and the later work by MacAskill on cause prioritization. Like, one was saying, "Hey! evidence can be really helpful in doing good, and we should care about how effective the charities are that we donate to," and the other work was a really cerebral, unintuitive piece about what we should care about, and contribute to, because of expected value reasons. And just that these are two very differe... (read more)

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

This is an excellent point. I "joined" EA because of the pond idea. I found the idea of helping a lot of people with the limited funds I could spare really appealing, and it made me feel like I could make a real difference. I didn't get into EA because of its focus on global prioritization research.

Of course, what I happened to join EA because of is not super important, but I wonder how others feel. Like EA as a "donate more to AMF and other effective charities" is a really different message than EA as "research and philosophize about what issues are reall... (read more)

7Jonas Vollmer8moI want to push back against the idea that a name change would implicitly change the movement in a more longtermist direction (not sure you meant to suggest that, but I read that between the lines). I think a name change could quite plausibly also be very good for the global health and development and animal welfare causes. It could shift the focus from personal life choices to institutional change, which I think people aren't thinking about enough. The EA community would probably greatly increase its impact if it focused a bit less on personal donations and a bit more on spending ODA budgets more wisely, improving developing-world health policy, funding growth diagnostics research, vastly increasing government funding for clean meat research, etc.
What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I think this is more or less correct. EA is not destined to be compatible with everything that we care about, and I think we should be thinking hard about what EA is capable of being and that the project of bringing in leftists is way more difficult than a few messaging tweaks. Those tweaks might bring in a few left-liberals, but once many leftists really see EA—i.e. as more than just a "you should donate more effectively" project—they will not be super interested, I think. 

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

Gotcha! Now I think I understand. This makes sense to me

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

This is a really interesting comparison. A lot of leftists also support more open border policies. 

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I take your point, but I think I still have some slight pushback. Although I am unconvinced myself of the abolish the police position, slogan or not, it seems a bit patronizing maybe to assume that a very real policy proposal—which has some support by real academics and philosophers including utilitarian ones—is just, like, an "expression of distaste". Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, and if so please let me know, but I guess that's the kind of dismissal of real (real not necessarily as in "good" just as in "supported by thoughtful people and perhaps... (read more)

3Jordan_Warner8moI'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 Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

Good point! My intuition is that it's probably true that self-identified leftists are often indeed members of the PMC. But this could be in part because of a similar selection bias on my part.

 I think the difference is, though, that left politics often draws power from the working-class even if the working-class of course contains people of very diverse political viewpoints. Like not everyone striking in a labor union necessarily an identified socialist, but the political act they're engaging in is one arguably. 

Whereas with EA, it is both the ca... (read more)

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

Thanks for the clarification—I should clarify as well.  By serious ideas I don't mean that they necessarily have a lot of purchase in, let's say, American society. They might (it depends on your measures, and as I noted above we're talking about different things. Socialism, progressivism, leftism, etc. can be understood differently) or they might not. What I mean is that they have a rich intellectual history, in the case of socialism an intellectual history that is much older than EA, and that when a person on the left espouses an idea that it should ... (read more)

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

This is a useful point but I would add a little bit to it. People on the left often think about racism, transphobia, and homophobia as quite a bit more than a POC friend of theirs being called a slur. Leftists often think of these as fundamentally systemic issues with very real, often physical, consequences. Like, racism in the US can manifest as, say, an entire generation of poor Black families being poisoned by a local CAFO, or an inability to develop intergenerational wealth due to explicitly racist economic policy.

I think sometimes EAs can offer a rath... (read more)

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

Great post! I think this is an issue worth a lot of exploration. My sense though—both from reacting to your post and from my own reflection—is that there is probably a pretty low ceiling in terms of how much is possible here. I'll speak from my own experience as both a fan of EA and as a leftist.

1. It seems to me that EA, right now, has two areas of congregation (very broadly speaking): university/city groups and professional networking circles. So if you're involved in EA you're probably one of the following: a student, someone with a pretty niche experti... (read more)

2timunderwood8moPossibly the solution should be to not try to integrate everything you are interested in. By analogy, both sex and cheese cake are god, but it is not troubling that for most people there isn't much overlap between sex and cheese cake. EA isn't trying to be a political movement, it is trying to be something else, and I don't think this is a problem.
9Linch8moSpeaking descriptively, are most active leftists members of the working class rather than the PMC? My impression is that while many working-class people have implicitly leftist views on economics, the demographics that leftists predominantly draw from for activism is the highly educated PMC class, similar to EA. This impression can of course be wrong due to selection bias of who I end up talking with, so I'd personally find it valuable to correct for this bias!
5Jordan_Warner8moI 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.