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RogerAckroyd's Shortform

Thank you for those links. 

RogerAckroyd's Shortform

Sometimes when I see people writing about opposition to the death penalty I get the urge to mention Effective Altruism to them, and suggest it is borderline insane to think opposition to capital punishment in the US is where a humanitarian should focus their energies. (Other political causes don't cause me to react in the same way because people's desire to campaign for things like lower taxes, feminism or more school spending seems tied up with self-interest to a much larger degree, so the question if it is the most pressing issue seems irrelevant.) I always refrain from mentioning EA because I think it would do more harm then good, so I will just vent my irrational frustation here. 


Ending The War on Drugs - A New Cause For Effective Altruists?

I would think associating the EA "brand" with drug legalisation would cause a negative reaction among at least as many people who would appreciate it because it shows concern for systemic change. I also don't see how it more of an example of systemic change than changing animal welfare laws to ban a lot of current practices, or regulating AI, to cite two political goals that some EA pursue. 

I also think the fact that it is non-neglected means that anyone who thinks this is the most good they can do could easily find a current organisation to join and campaign with. I think figuring out which campaigning methods are most effective is something where EA methodology does not have much advantage anyway, so little reason to think an EA-aligned organisation would be unusally effective. 

Consciousness research as a cause? [asking for advice]

Research into the human brain and mind does not seem neglected. I am skeptical of our ability to make much progress into the question of consciousness and in particular I don't think we will ever be able to be confident which animals and AI are conscious. But to whatever extent we can make progress on these questions it seems it will come from research areas that are not neglected. Of course, if you are passionate about the area you might think that going into it and donating part of your salary is the best decision overall. 

How do you compare human and animal suffering?

We can't measure suffering of course across species. (Really, we can barely measure it among humans.) So we have to rely on extrapolation from our own experience, which in a way amounts to extrapolating from one datapoint. My intuition says that non-humans animals don't have a full consciousness by humans standards, and that their moral value is correspondingly less. I feel relatively confident in that judgement. But given scale of factory farming, how neglected the issue is among the general public, and that it intuitively it feels like at least chickens and mammals have some consciousness I still focus my support for EA causes on animal welfare ones. 

I think that if you simply make a point estimate of the scale of human and animal suffering you could end up with them being comparable, (see eg here but you could also easily end up with human suffering or animal suffering being much larger. One major reason the EA movement works on both causes is I think a form of risk-aversion, not because it is what an expected value calculation suggests. 

Ramiro's Shortform

Does your feeling that the default state is positive also apply to farm animals? Their reward system would be shaped by aritifical selection for the past few generations, but it is not immediately clear to me if you think that would make a difference. 

RogerAckroyd's Shortform

Sometimes the concern is raised that caring about wild animal welfare is seen as unituitive and will bring conflict with the environmental movement. I do not think large-scale efforts to help wild animals should be an EA cause at the moment, but in the long-term I don't think environmentalist concerns will be a limiting factor. Rather, I think environmentalist concerns are partially taken as seriously as they are because people see it as helping wild animals as well. (In some perhaps not fully thought out way.) I do not think it is a coindince that the extinction of animals gets more press than the extinction of plants. 

I also note that bird-feeding is common and attracts little criticism from environmental groups. Indeed, during a cold spell this winter I saw recommendations from environmental groups to do it. 

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Thank you for writing this, this is indeed concerning. I will acknowledge that I have a bias against the social justice movement, for many different reasons, but if I want to be altruistic I have to also see if it has good sides. 

I can certainly see a case that working with diversity and inclusion can have instrumental value for EA organisations, including animal advocacy ones. The idea that having representatives from diverse backgrounds can help to give a movement broad appeal seems very likely correct. The idea that this can also generate useful ideas internally is not so clear, but certainly possible. And coming out against diversity would generate bad PR.

But there are also numerous ways organisations could "over-optimize " for diversity. Efforts to make the working environment welcoming by policing micro-aggressions can certainly make people feel like they are living in fear of breaking arbitrary rules and impede normal human interaction. Efforts to increase diversity by affirmative action could impede hiring the best competence. And being too associated with one version of the American left, by adopting social justice jargon wholesale, is not very good PR either. Lots of people are skeptical of many parts of that movement, and that includes people it sees as marginalized. 

Possible misconceptions about (strong) longtermism

It is not obvious that non-extinction is an attractor state. If there is some minimal background risk of extinction that we can not get below (whether due to asteroids, false vacuum decay, nuclear war,  everyone becoming a negative utilitarian and stops reproducing, whatever) then it is the nature of exponential discounting that the very long-term future can quickly become essentially unimportant. 

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