All of Rand's Comments + Replies

[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."

2Ada-Maaria Hyvärinen3dThis one is nice as well! Personally I like the method of embedding the link in the story, but since a many in my test audience considered it off-putting and too advertisement-like I thought it it better to trust their feedback, since I obviously personally already agree with the thought I'm trying to convey with my text. But like I said I'm not certain what the best solution is, probably there is no perfect one.
2Ada-Maaria Hyvärinen5dI tried out a couple of different ones and iterated based on feedback. One ending I considered would have been just leaving out the last paragraph and linking to GiveWell like this: I also considered embedding the link explicitly in the story like this: However, some of my testers found that this also broke the flow and that moving the link "outside" the story gave a less advertisement-like feeling. And I also tried an ending that would wrap up the story more nicely (at this point the whole story was around 40% longer and not that well-edited in general): This longer ending was most liked by readers that were already quite familiar with EA, so I decided to not go for it, since I wanted to write for people who have not thought and discussed about EA that much yet. But of course, my pool of proof-readers was not that big and everyone was at least somewhat familiar with EA, even if not involved in the movement. It would be interesting to get feedback from total newbies.
[Creative Writing Context] [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 pul

... (read more)
1WSCFriedman8dI mean, I see these as totally different things (preventing suffering in Nigeria - well, and other third-world countries - is why I'm here), but that's probably moving outside the question as posed. I wouldn't be willing to be a butcher, but that's squeamishness, not a moral decision; I wouldn't want to be a plumber, either. But... actually no I think I'm going to move my actual advice to the 'do you have recommendations' thread just above. See you there!
[Creative Writing Context] [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 Context] [Fiction] The Engine

Suggestions for making the story clearer are welcome!

1WSCFriedman8dI have a question for you, and I think the answer might help make the story clearer. Under what context is your narrator giving this explanation? Why is he saying all this? What's the framing device for it? Because if he's trying to explain quick history to someone who doesn't know it (why doesn't the person know it? A small child? A foreigner? Just someone technologically ignorant?), he has no reason to bring up the analogue-vegetarians at all. Just "this is how cars work." If the listener then asks (possibly offpage) if this is wrong, he can explain "it's not like chickens actually matter" (and I wouldn't even say 'some people have a delusion chickens are people', we can just appeal to the perceived-as-true-to-most-of-humanity-belief that chickens have no moral value and leave it at that) "and anyway it's better than the alternatives which are all super-expensive." But if, instead, he's bringing it up in the context of trying to argue someone out of analogue-vegetarianism, then he needs numbers. Then he would want the ability to say, "if everyone did that, that would dectuple the cost-per-mile of cars, the economy would collapse. Nobody would be able to afford to drive to work from their houses, we'd have to go back to coal power plants polluting the air, factories would close across the country, we'd be in a desperate battle for survival." It's not that these things would necessarily be true; in our world, which doesn't have the Phobic Reactor, our economy is fine. But if he's pitching his side's case, he isn't just going to say, "this side is delusional," he's going to say "and their delusions would have horrible consequences if people believed them." Otherwise he's leaving good arguments on the table. Does this make sense? I'm not saying these are the only two possibilities, obviously; there's lots of other contexts in which he might be explaining. (An ad for the newest, super-efficient phobic-reactor-fueled-car, say - someone might explain history there, ju
[Creative Writing Context] [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" i... (read more)

2WSCFriedman9dOn my second reread, I figured out what was supposed to be going on in the events, if not the meaning of the story. But while I considered factory farming as one possibility for the thing it was supposed to be equivalent to, I felt the analogy whiff, and so decided it probably wasn't what you intended. The reason is, the story depends on your initial belief that animal suffering (specifically the suffering of chickens) is fundamentally important. But what it's trying to convince you of is that animal suffering is fundamentally important. So it's a closed loop. If you aren't a vegetarian and are a consequentialist (hi), it's saying "you know the thing you know a little about and don't really like, but don't have strong enough opinions about to change your behavior over? What if we had more of that, and less of lots of other things you DO feel strongly are bad?" My general attitude isn't that the narrator is wrong, it's that people don't talk like he does. He's talking as if he has some kind of dark and terrible secret to hide, but the secret is only dark and terrible if you start out believing he's wrong, and then his secret isn't dark and terrible, because he's admitting it openly, so it isn't a secret. I feel as if, in order to write a story to make someone emotionally feel the importance of vegetarianism, you would need to say "X, which you already condemn is morally equivalent to eating meat" in such manner that people who read it actually agreed with you that X was morally equivalent to eating meat and that since they condemn X, they should stop eating meat, without instead having them say "But X isn't equivalent at all!" or - the trap I found this story to fall into - "why should I care about X?" Because, conditional on chickens not haveing qualia, I don't care if they do have fear. The evil done in the story could be evil if we are supposed to believe that the fact that chickens do have fear proves they do have qualia, but I didn't get that idea from anywhe
2Rand10dSuggestions for making the story clearer are welcome!

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.)

2Ramiro1moI think it's awesome, but Harrison should get more credit for pointing out the "patient philanthropy" critique. I'd like to see what you could get if you wrote a short story about it.

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.

1Harrison D1moAh, I figured it was more of an argument against delayed giving rather than about plainly not giving. To clarify further, is your claim that the price of [saving?] a child’s life is actually doubling every few years (out of proportion to inflation), or is it just supposing a hypothetical world where that is the case?

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

1Harrison D1moAverage annual stock market returns of roughly 9% while accounting for roughly 2% inflation, would see you double your money in about (70/(9%-2%)=10 years. It’s not exactly fast, but it’s doubling after accounting for inflation so it’s nothing to sneeze at. (Also worth noting, that’s not accounting for the additional deposits you make with your income, which would likely double a given amount much faster) Of course, anyone should be careful about investing (e.g., potential for downturns or personal inability to make sound investment decisions in line with really basic advice), potential for value drift, and the possibility that some current causes are urgent/warrant immediate funding despite the possibility that a later cause might be even more important that the current one. However, for some people/situations those concerns may also be partially if not wholly offset by the concepts like increased insight/research into charity effectiveness. Ultimately, I don’t have a strict opinion on which method is generally better, but I don’t think it’s justified to so heavily dismiss/criticize delayed giving.