Yay for me: I have found that I can increase my donations in way that seems long-term sustainable in terms of finances and emotional engagement. I have also found that a moderate engagement with the movement is the best way for me to maintain an interest, while avoiding getting depressed by the state of the world.
I thought the Clickhole post was both funny, and a good illustration of how cause prioritization can be perceived by many people.
I think it was the GWWC page that I eventually linked to. I looked at the Centre for Effective Altruism home page first, and somewhere else that I can not remember, and did not find them very suitable as a starting point for the general public.
I was recently looking for a page with donation advice to link to. I found one, but it struck me that some general EA-organisations could start their homepages more focused on effective donation. (As opposed to getting people involved in other ways.) Most people are not looking to join an organistion or change jobs to more altruistically effective ones, but probably donate something to charity and could repriotize those donations. Having a "hook" which is about what to donate to might be more helpful.
I am not convinced federalism does much to mitigate risk of totalitarianism. I think there is tendency for power to get concentrated to the federal level, regardless of what legal documents say, and to achieve totalitarianism it should be enough to get power over armed forces, law enforcement and highest courts.
If that was done before the slave trade was abolished it would have encouraged the enslavement of more people.
Another question: Would it have supported Christian missionary efforts because of education/healthcare they spread? Would it instead have competed with such efforts? (I am assuming that we are talking of an organisation founded in the Western world. What a Chinese GiveWell in the 19th century would have done I have absolutely no idea about.)
Going back a little more than 200 years, would it have recommended supporting the anti-slavery movement? Presumably it would agree that abolishing slavery was good, but the evidence that the movement would work would not be there beforehand, and it might have seemed very unlikely to succeed.
Professor Abigail Marsh writes in NYT that individualism promotes altruism: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/26/opinion/individualism-united-states-altruism.html?smid=tw-shareI have not made any attempt to vet the study, and for studies of this kind you don't expect one study to be more than a small piece of evidence but it is clearly an interesting research question.
Thank you for those links.
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.
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 ... (read more)
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.
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 ... (read more)
What are the chances of a vaccine against malaria?
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.
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 ext... (read more)
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 id... (read more)
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.
Personally I give mostly to animal welfare, on the ground that it is comparitively neglected within the movement, and even more neglected in the larger philantropic world. Your data seems to confirm my intuition on that score.
One could say thatlong-termism is also neglected, but I am not convinced of the effectiveness of long-termist charities. (I should say I have not looked deeply into it.)
You assume here that other wild animals have net-positive lives. It is also possible from a utilitarian viewpoint that their lives are net-negative, or that their lives are neutral since they lack conscioussness. I don't think there is any way, even in principle, of knowing which is true. I do feel comfortable saying however that humans are both more intrinsically valuable than other animals, and have a higher potential to live a good life than other animals.
It is definitely possible to reach the utilitarian conclusion that the extinction of hu... (read more)
There is a well-known argument that rule utilatarianism actually collapses into act utilatarianism. I wonder if rule utilitarians are not getting at the notion of dynamic inconsistency. If might be better if utilitarians can pre-commit to following certain rules, because of the effect that has on society, even if after one has adopted the rules there are circumstances where a utilitarian would be tempted to make exceptions.
I think there might be some interest among the EA community in recent social media discussions about Scott Alexander and SlateStarCodex. My impression is that among some committed leftists the movement will face suspiscion rooted in its support from rich people, its current demographic profile, because some leftists are suspiscious of rationality itself and because the movement might detract from the idea that the causes popular now among leftists are also objectively the most important issues facing the world.
I agree that ignoring psychological harms completely is arbitrary. Many people would prefer moderate physical pain to public humiliation and this seems pretty hard-wired in our psychology.
At the same time, in the current climate claims of psychological harm are clearly used strategically. People supposedly feel unsafe if a colleague has political views that they disagree with for example, which clearly is not some sort of universal fact of human psychology. Certain claims of emotional harm should be discounted not because they are necessarily false, but because indulging them leads to a bad equilibrium.
The problems of feral cats seems to receive a fair amount attention among mainstream animal protection and animal rights groups. Eg there are campaigns to neuter them (humanely) to prevent over-population etc. Birds are fed by many humans but it is unclear to me whether that is net-positive in long run, much less an effective intervention. Rodents and bugs receive less attention, quite possibly rightly so.
The religious texts I am familiar with contain calls for charity, but not much on making it effective.
It is also worth considering that the relation between the contents of religious texts and their adherents actual actions is kind of complicated. Very often even devout followers do not follow the prescriptions of their religious texts, but the content of religious texts clearly have some influence.
I am attracted to utilitarianism, but also find some of the possible implications off-putting. But there are also some objections I have from first principles.
One objection is that any numbers we use in practice just have to be made up. (This objection might be especially serious if we take animals into account, which I think we should.) So maybe utalitarianism is the "correct" theory but if I don't have access to the correct utilities it is not clear whether I should use some made up numbers to do the expected utility calculations. One might c... (read more)
The fish numbers for suffering only include farm fish, not wild-caught fish if I understand correctly? Regarding the elephant example, it seems a lot of the elephant neurons are in the cerebellum, not the celebral cortex. Humans apparently have three times more neurons in the cortex than elephants, explaining our superior cognitive capacities, and possibly indicating we have more capacity for pain and pleasure.
On 80000 hours webpage they have a profile on factory farming, where they say they estimate ending factory farming would increase the expected value of the future of humanity by between 0.01% and 0.1%. I realize one cannot hope for precision in these things but I am still curious if anyone knows anything more about the reasoning process that went into making that estimate.
I think of welfare reforms as being excellent complements to work on cultured meat. By raising prices, and drawing attention to the issue of animal welfare, they may increase demand for cultured meat when it becomes available.
Like the author of the OP I am excited about the possibility of cultured meat to reduce animal cruelty. If we want people to switch to vegetarian diet on a large scale it seems the most realistic way. Now, I am perhaps more optimistic than the author about the possibility of humane farms. The country where I live has stronger animal welfare laws than the US, and indeed than almost all of the world, and I do think that a non-trivial portion of the meat eaten in my country has been ethically produced. In longer-term, to avoid back-sliding of the standards, c... (read more)
Thank you. That is rather different from my view of sentience in some ways, I appreciate the clarification.
Conditional on invertibrates being sentient, I would upgrade my probability of other things being sentient. So maybe bivales are sentient, some existing robots, maybe even plants. I would take the case for hidden qualia in humans seriously as well. Do you agree, and if so, would this have any impact on good policies to pursue?
There are different possible scenarios in which invertebrates turn out to be sentient. It might be the case, for instance, that panpsychism is true. So if one comes to believe that invertebrates are sentient because panpsychism is true, one should also come to believe that robots and plants are sentient. Or it could be that some form of information integration theory is true, and invertebrates instantiate enough integration for sentience. In that case, the probability that you assign to the sentience of plants and robots will depend on your assess... (read more)
Hello everybody, I have been lurking on the forum for a while and thought I would introduce myself. I encountered EA earlier this year and while I am not as altruistic as many of you, I have become more altruistic than I was before. I have increased my donations, and reprioritized them to hopefully more effecient causes. I have also become almost vegetarian, a lifestyle change I never thought I would attempt.
I have no overaching moral theory. I am attracted to utilitarianism, but I also think there are lots of practical and theoretical problems with ... (read more)