All of MJusten's Comments + Replies

Many Undergrads Should Take Light Courseloads

Yesss this is very aligned with what I have come to recognize as I've gotten more engaged with EA.

Worth mentioning: this can be hard

Many EAs come from high-achieving/ academically ambitious backgrounds. Pre-EA, that often means orienting towards the best grades and generally acting in a way that fulfills this high-achieving self-perception (which can entail taking more goals). As one hopefully reflects on goals upon encountering, EA there's a conflict between this residual self-perception and trying to help save or improve the lives of as many peopl... (read more)

1Mauricio1moThanks! I see how that applies to the advice of not focusing so much on grades--do you think there's a similar dynamic with the advice of taking fewer classes? Personally, I've felt more nervous about letting grades slip than about taking fewer classes (since the latter doesn't come at the cost of worse grades--if anything, it makes it easier to get good grades on the fewer classes you take).
Managing COVID restrictions for EA Global travel: My plans + request for other examples

The Randox coupon code "BritishAirways" is invalid for me.  If anyone finds another coupon code that does work, it would be helpful to share.

None of the ones on this page worked 

2Andre1moThe code worked for me. 🤷‍♂️
Notes on "Managing to Change the World"

Thanks, I found this really helpful! I think this could be helpful advice for other EA group leaders, even if the management in most groups takes place on a smaller scale and in a less organized manner than other EA orgs. I'll try to share it around a bit.

If you could send an email to every student at your university (to maximize impact), what would you include in it?

EA UW Madison thinks of its emails as having four (sequential) goals: 

  1. Let people know this org exists
  2. Get interested people on the newsletter
  3. Get people to come to an intro event
  4. Get people to apply to the introductory fellowship

A copy of our mass email draft that we just sent out can be found here https://docs.google.com/document/d/14JQjbwWC5U8Eb82VTwozfyhrc0x_FV53n32vQuPNLas/edit?usp=sharing

Get 100s of EA books for your student group

Feedback:  We gave out books we ordered through this form at a student org fair last week and it was a  success!

We were moderately exclusive in giving out books, but still gave out nearly all of the 50+ books we had. By moderately exclusive, I mean that we only gave out books to people who seemed genuinely interested in EA and joining EA UW-Madison. We also tried to match the books we gave out to what people were studying (e.g. Superintelligence to CS majors, Poor Economics to econ students), although this likely doesn't need to be forced since t... (read more)

AMA: Tim Ferriss, Michael Pollan, and Dr. Matthew W. Johnson on psychedelics research and philanthropy

For Michael (or others): Do you think there might be a connection between (responsible) Psychedelic use and altruism? And if so, do you think this is a promising research avenue or future application for psychedelics?

In  How to Change Your Mind,  you reference the sense of 'oneness' and global community that often follows a psychedelic experience. I imagine these same feelings motivate many altruists, so psychedelics' ability to dial them up could potentially lead to some inspiring ethical change; the change that has motivated many players in the... (read more)

3Dr. Matthew W. Johnson6moThis is a fascinating question but it is an empirical question meaning we need to test it with data. My guess is that at least among some people psychedelics lead to increased altruism. But there are likely many cases where there is no change, and cases where altruism is decreased. And this likely depends on many factors other than the psychedelic. We did find claims of increased long terms altruism in high dose compared to trivial dose psilocybin under double blind conditions as part of a "spiritual practices" program backdrop ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5772431/ ). However we need more work to see if this holds up to more behavioral evidence. I will say the picture on effects on authoritarianism is inconclusive and so far this is not good evidence for this, as I described in this paper with David Yaden: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/theres-no-good-evidence-that-psychedelics-can-change-your-politics-or-religion/ [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/theres-no-good-evidence-that-psychedelics-can-change-your-politics-or-religion/] .
3Michael Pollan6moI think we need more research on these questions. There is some preliminary indications that a single psilocybin experience increase measures of "nature connectedness" and decreases tolerance for authoritarianism. But I wonder about the samples-- people positively inclined in these directions already. We need to test the drugs on anti-environmentalists and authoritarians to see if they have a reall effect or just strengthen predispositions. I would love to see a trial of healthy normals to see if it increases altruistic behavior -- how about a trial of two groups of philanthropists, one gets high dose psilocybin and the other not, and which group increases its giving over the following year? do I have any volunteers?
What key facts do you find are compelling when talking about effective altruism?

I find the emphasis on just how much good we can do and how unique this is from a historical perspective engaging. There is an extremely high level of wealth concentrated in rich countries, but in the increasingly connected world we live in, it is possible to have a remarkable impact with well-thought out donations. This goes well with the Will MacAskill argument asking one to think of how great they would feel if they ran into a burning building and saved a child. 

Also find that appeals to psychology that references how EA is not intuitive (e.g. scop... (read more)

Don't Be Bycatch

This really resonated for a young EA like myself. EA totally transformed the way I think about my career decisions, but I quickly realized how competitive jobs at the organizations I looked up to were. (The 80k job board is a tough place for an undergraduate to NOT feel like an imposter). This didn't discourage me from EA in general, but it did leave me with some uncertainty about how much I should let EA dictate my pursuits. This post offered some excellent reassurances and reminders to stay grounded.

Inspired me to leave my first comment on the forum. Thank you for the lovely post :)