michaelchen

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Contact with reality

Out there, though, you can meet real people, with their own rich and complex lives; you can make real friends, and be part of real relationships, communities, and institutions. You can wander cities with real history; you can hear stories about things that really happened, and tell them; you can stand under real skies, and feel the heat of a real sun. People out there are doing real science, and discovering real things. They’re barely beginning to understand the story they’re a part of, but they can understand. You can understand, too; you can be a part of that story, too. No one knows, yet, what’s going to happen.

This is beautifully written, and it helps me feel more appreciative of our world. I think I'd still prefer the experience machine in this scenario though, just due to the hedonic difference.

EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers

I ended up making a post based on Kuhan's. It's somewhat shorter and has less of a focus on careers. I ended up getting 14 reactions (for reference, I have a bit over 600 friends on Facebook). I wonder if accompanying the post with a new profile picture would have been a good way to get more engagement haha.

My birthday is today! For the past two years, I did birthday fundraisers, but this year, instead of gifts or donations, I’m asking for just five minutes of your attention.

In eighth grade, I discovered a social impact–oriented career site called 80000hours.org and learned about a new social movement called effective altruism.

Previously, I knew about various issues like environmental degradation or extreme global poverty, but never really knew what to really do about it. I had learned a bit from UNICEF posters around school about how cheap it was to provide essential goods and medicine in parts of the developing world, but never saw any examples of ordinary people taking that opportunity seriously.

I had learned about income inequality of the United States, but not the much more extreme inequality on a global scale. It turns out that someone making $70,000 per year is in the top 1% of the global income distribution, while 700 million people live on less than $2 per day (~$700 per year, and this is adjusted for lower cost of living in poorer countries). Millions of people—often children—die each year of easily preventable ailments such as malaria and vitamin A deficiency.

Similarly, all I knew of animal farming was idyllic illustrations on milk cartons and meat packaging, and never learned about the horrific conditions in which farmed animals are raised in truly are, and the terrifying scale of the cruelty. Over 40 billion land animals and 40 billion fish from factory farms were killed for food in 2019, but the issue gets little attention compared to other well-known causes.

And then there’s the issue of safeguarding our future. Existential risks to civilization are estimated by philosopher Toby Ord and others to be more than 10% likely in the coming century, partly due to potential misuse of emerging technologies such as synthetic biology or advanced artificial intelligence. But if all goes well, human history is just beginning. Humanity could survive for incalculable years, reaching heights of flourishing unimaginable today.

So in tenth grade, I decided to take the Giving What We Can pledge to donate 10% of my income in my future career* (1% of my 红包🧧 money while a student lol) to high-impact charities. As I struggled with depression through high school due to chronic sleep deprivation and academic stress, the commitment to trying to make the biggest positive impact on the world that I could was something that kept me going.

*Dear siblings: yes, I will make sure to build up months of savings and pay off student debt first, etc.

If these ideas sound interesting to you, I’d appreciate it if you could read https://80000hours.org/key-ideas/ to learn more about the most effective problems to work on and how you might use your career to address them, directly or indirectly. If you prefer to read it in batches, you can subscribe to the newsletter at https://80000hours.org/community/. And if you’re interested in checking out high-impact, vetted charities, check out the charity evaluation research at https://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities and https://founderspledge.com/research.

Introducing Probably Good: A New Career Guidance Organization

I'm not a fan of the name "Probably Good" because:

  • if it's describing the advice, it seems like the advice might be pretty low-effort and not worth paying attention to
  • if it's describing the careers, it sounds like the careers recommended have a significant chance of having a negative impact, so again, not worth reading about
Taking Self-Determination Seriously

I don't have much knowledge in this area, but my main concern is that there's a significant risk of a new country's governance being unstable and frankly terrible—e.g., South Sudan.

Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups

Minor comment regarding the case of Greg Patton: As someone who heard about the story in early September and was shocked at the fallout, it was heartening to read the aftermath in https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/usc-professor-slur/ and https://poetsandquants.com/2020/09/26/usc-marshall-finds-students-were-sincere-but-prof-did-no-wrong-in-racial-flap/ and see that the university eventually “concluded there was no ill intent on Patton’s part and that ‘the use of the Mandarin term had a legitimate pedagogical purpose.’”

What are some ways to practice self-care in a job hunt?

For context, can you explain what kind of job you are looking for? How time-consuming does each application tend to be?

Ineffective entrepreneurship: post-mortem of Hippo, the happiness app that never quite was

Has the list been made public, or has the app been made open-source yet?

Planning my birthday fundraiser for October 2020

Can you share the text of your birthday fundraiser post here?

EA Birthday Posts: An Alternative to Fundraisers

If anyone else makes a birthday post along these lines, I think it would be valuable if you could share it here as well.

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