Topic Contributions


The Unweaving of a Beautiful Thing

This paragraph confused me:

“I learned that sometimes empathy is the enemy of compassion. I learned that compassion is moving towards another’s pain instead of away. It’s a skill, not a gut reaction.”

What is "moving towards another's pain"? Given the context, it feels like she should be saying that compassion is alleviating pain, not feeling it.

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Fey Deal

I like the second one! Though I'd make a minor change, just for punch:

“Besides,” his best friend said. “If you actually want to save a life for 5000 dollars, you can do it in a way where you can verify how they are doing it and what they need your money for.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, now more confused than ever.

"I'll send you a link."

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Engine

I feel like eating meat but not being willing to torture animals is the best and most common example of facilitating evil that you wouldn't directly perform purely because of your distance from it. 

Probably the most famous example of this is illustrated by Peter Singer:

 To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.

I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child?

Now, you can bite the bullet and say "Oh, a Nigerian child? No way, their lives are valueless!" And indeed, Peter doesn't have an answer for that. But most people don't give that answer, rather they gesture at distance, uncertainty, and the fact that the task is seemingly intractable. By removing that distance we make the dilemma salient.

In short, this isn't directed at people who are certain that chickens (or Nigerians) don't have moral worth. It's aimed at the majority that would never torture an animal but gladly feast on tortured animals.

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Engine

Thanks! Part of the reason the cars use chickens is that chickens are quite small. Once you start thinking about full-sized phobic reactors, you open up a whole world of possibilities. (And what about smaller motors and batteries?)

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Engine

Suggestions for making the story clearer are welcome!

[Creative Writing Contest] [Fiction] The Engine

Yeah, enough people have to me they were confused by this story that it's clear I'm not managing to convey clearly what I meant to convey.

Here's a summary of the story:

During the 1970s, we discovered that fear could be used as a power supply. We learned that chickens could emit large amounts of fear and used them to power our cars. The narrator is both telling this story and defending it, arguing that terrorizing chickens is both morally permissible and worth the cost. (The nature of the terrorizing, which the apologist calls "triggering sensory stimuli" is left to the reader's imagination, though the reference to the computing revolution is meant to hint at computers and AI.)

The analogy is to eating chicken and eggs, particularly those raised in battery cages. Instead of us getting our nutrients from previously tortured chickens, it imagines us driving cars directly powered by torture.


I'm assuming it for the sake of the piece. I do think that the price of a child's life is rising faster than my investments appreciate, and probably thought they were doubling every 4 to 5 years when I wrote this. (I wrote $2000 back when I posted this to Facebook, I wonder what Givewell's estimates are.)

(To clarify further, this was a post to my Facebook creative writing group in 2015 as was the "Responsibility" poetry I posted.)


This piece isn't intended as an argument against delayed giving (though I think most such arguments would need to deny the premise of the piece). It's a story about not giving. It's about an older man, living in a time where saving a life in Kenya is like saving a life in Canada (that is, out of reach for most people), looking backward. Every year during that short window, he could have been a hero, saving one or more lives.  He missed that chance and it doesn't exist anymore.


If you have a way of doubling your money every few years, go for it. But that's rather unlikely.

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