164Joined Jun 2021


Thank you for putting this together!

I don’t even think we are disagreeing anymore.

Obviously I agree that there can be disagreement on what are the best interventions. That is not a criticism of EA. The world is messy.

But let’s take a thought experiment in which once you decide that you wanted to use your limited resources to improve the world as effectively as possible, you could know exactly how to do that. In that world, I don’t think it should be controversial to do that thing.

To me, that is what EA philosophy is: a goal of improving the world in the most effective way possible. And that is why I say EA should not be controversial.

In the real world we don’t know what the best interventions so we have to make judgements and do research, etc. But to me those are all tactical issues.

The whole point is that to turn it into an either/or question is ridiculous.

The drowning example you give is good because it’s a real one. Drowning is actually the leading cause of death amongst 1-4 year olds (https://www.cdc.gov/drowning/facts/index.html) in the United States. Which is why people with backyard swimming pools have to put fences around them.

But if you saw a child drowning in a swimming pool and refused to save it because you could save more lives in the long run by addressing the systemic issues that make drowning the leading cause of death amongst 1-4 year olds in the United States, well…that’s what Crary’s argument is.

The basis for a lot of utilitarian arguments is the drowning child example (https://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/child-in-the-pond/).

Alice Crary’s argument seems to suggest that if you pass a child drowning in a pond, you should let the child drown, because your resources and energy would be better directed at addressing the systemic issues that cause drowning. For example, why is there no fence around the pond? Why aren’t parents more diligent about keeping their toddlers away from ponds. It would be better to hurry past the pond and let the child drown so you can focus on these root cause issues.

I agree EAs aren’t original and weren’t the first.

I do think it makes sense to separate tactics and philosophy.

There are people who say it would be to leave money in a savings account than donate it to a de-worming charity or AMF. One of the most prominent ones is Alice Crary. Here is a recent sample of her argument: https://blog.oup.com/2022/12/the-predictably-grievous-harms-of-effective-altruism/

None of those seem like critiques of the broad idea “I will attempt to think critically about how to reduce the most suffering.” Rather, they take issue with tactics.

So, they aren’t criticisms of EA as a philosophy, they are criticisms of EA tactics.

Also, as Peter Singer recently pointed out, no one ever said EA work was “either / or.” If someone has a systemic solution to global poverty, by all means, pursue it. In the meantime, EAs will donate to AMF and Helen Keller, etc.

So, the question then is whether we should sit on our hands and leave our money in savings accounts while we wait for a solution to systemic poverty, or should we use that money to de-worm a child while we are waiting.

Why would it be harmful to work for Wall Street earning to give? Sincere question.

Finance is like anything else. You can have an ethically upstanding career, or you can have an ethically dubious career. Seems crazy to generalize.

The bear market in stocks will continue, and the S&P 500 will decline an additional 30-45%. VC-backed and unprofitable early stage companies will continue to remain at the center of the storm as access to capital further deteriorates. The crypto bear market also accelerates. Open Philanthropy has to cut its spending target again and GiveWell again falls short of its goals. The EA community realizes how linked it was to frothy financial asset valuations.

EAs appeal to Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg to consider filling some of the gaps, and one or both of them commits to doing so.

The period from which your data comes is anomalous. 2014-2021 was a massive financial asset bubble and VC backed startups were at the center of it. It will go down as one of the craziest periods of speculative mania and loose financial conditions in history.

Entrepreneurship is about to revert to its norm of being A LOT more challenging than people today currently appreciate. Do not make a career decision to become an entrepreneur based on an overly rosy view of your probability of success that is informed by recent times. Financial conditions are cyclical.

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