Noah Starbuck

Topic Contributions


Buddhism and Utilitarianism; EA vs EB

Really appreciate that notion.  It is something I've thought a lot about myself.  I also tend to find that my personal spiritual practice benefits from a mix of many short meditation retreats, daily formal meditation sessions & ongoing altruistic efforts in daily life.  I don't feel that I would make a good teacher of meditation if I did that full time or that my practice would reach greater depth faster if I quit my job & practiced full time.  

Buddhism and Utilitarianism; EA vs EB

Interesting essay, thanks for sharing.  Buddhist practice is the central focus of my life & is how I became interested in EA.  I see the two as fairly compatible.  I'm assuming the essay's focus is on Buddhists that have a primarily physicalist ontology (that subjective experience is an epiphenomena of brain chemistry).  If that is the case, then I think engaged Buddhism, when taken to the highest degree of intensity, converges fairly well with EA.  

Things become arguably more interesting if we adopt the traditional Buddhist ontology which includes multiple realms of existence, karma & rebirth.  For instance, the population ethics does change in this case.  In the traditional Buddhist worldview, there are a finite set of sentient beings being reborn in the universe.  The total population of sentient beings can decrease (because sentient beings reach liberation & stop being reborn) but not increase (since Buddhist logic negates a first cause).  

The main thrust of population ethics in this case is to increase the proportion of sentient beings reborn into "fortunate human births" (a traditional Buddhist phrase) which thus allows them the greatest opportunity to generate positive momentum (i.e. by being effective altruists) to eventually reach liberation.  Ordinary sentient beings are not really able to effect this; at most they can encourage other humans to maximize their altruistic efforts & thus build that positive momentum.  To me, this is how traditional Buddhadharma could align with EA.

Where they don't align is around doing more than just practicing altruism.  The traditional Buddhist worldview suggests that some of the most possible good someone can do is to strive to become a Buddha through training in meditative concentration & insight into the nature of reality.  Through this training, it is possible to progress through degrees of liberation which put one in a position to do the most possible good for others from a multi-lifetime perspective.  This would include occupying altruistic worldly functions such as those encouraged by EA, but also encouraging others to spend a large portion of their lives meditating.  In other words, spending a large portion of life meditating is highly recommended by traditional Buddhism but only makes sense from a utilitarian perspective if one takes a multi-lifetime view.

Noah_il_Matto's Shortform

Survey Studies on Perception of EA Ideas

Has anyone looked into the possibility of doing survey studies on the perception of EA ideas?  I'm thinking of surveys that might include questions that prompt the participant to choice between 2 statements.  Each statement might contain an EA idea, but phrased in a different way.   The goal would be to determine which verbiage is more palatable.   Another type of question might measure which statement is more likely to convince the participant of a given view, or to take a certain action.  The audience would be those who were not already EAs.  Ideally the result would be a set of word & phrase choices that were statistically proven to be more palatable & also better at convincing people of changing their views or taking action.  This set of language could then be scaled as a best practice across a wide variety of community building & fund raising efforts.

New forum feature: Map of Community Members

Copy that, thanks. I primarily access the forum on mobile. Not sure if that’s the overall trend though.

New forum feature: Map of Community Members

I’m on mobile & don’t see the add me button available.

Has this EA critique article been discussed/responded to?

Thank you, I did see that in going down the EA critiques rabbit hole. That thread was very helpful .

Has this EA critique article been discussed/responded to?

Thanks. I’ll do a search for “common objections” articles.

"Teaching to Give" Idea

Thank you for the feedback, Harrison!  Good things to think about.  I think it would be best if I could do a proof of concept first to clarify the exact nature of my suggestions.