Why should I donate to international poverty relief when these people would just have more kids (contributing to overpopulation) and not do anything good in the world? Shouldn't I donate to scholarship funds for local college students instead, since they're more likely to make a difference?
(I suspect this is a common line of reasoning among well-off educated white people in wealthy countries who think people in third-world countries are selfish and unambitious, but won't say that outright.)
Absolutely, I hear this all the time. Here's some anecdotal advice:
In particular, there's a strong thread in my circles that privileged people need to give up their power (for example, this was recently posted in the math Discord server at my left-leaning university), and philanthropy allows privileged people to hold onto power while feeling good about themselves. Social justice folks and EAs agree that everyone is complicit in injustice, and we should each take life-changing steps to help. The difference is that EAs claim that throwing away one's power isn't a good way to help. EAs could appeal to social justice folks by arguing that donating money is a great way to share the benefits of one's privilege; GiveDirectly is particularly appealing here. Finally, I've heard good things about mutual aid societies; perhaps you could compare and contrast mutual aid societies and effective charities.
Here's a compilation of ideas from 2015 called "What Can A Technologist Do About Climate Change?": http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange/
Hi! Thanks for this new way to get career advice.
I'd greatly appreciate ideas for where my skill set could be most useful.
My dream job would be some sort of research role at the intersection of philosophy, math, computer science, and religious studies. Lately, I've been curious about the risks of demographic shift toward religious fundamentalists.
What steps could I take toward a role like this? Where can I find EAs interested in the future religious landscape? Has there already been discussion in EA circles about the demographic shift toward fundamentalism?
As soon as I can, I plan to do some internet research and write up preliminary thoughts on risks from fundamentalism. I'll also work on getting more involved in the Christian and Buddhist EA communities. Beyond that, though, what can I do?
Here's my background:
I expect to graduate this June from a US public research university with a major in Philosophy, a minor in Math, and a minor in Computer Science. I completed a few semi-prestigious tech research internships, spent a semester studying at a Buddhist monastery in Nepal, and am writing my thesis on the spiritual paths of Mahayana Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity.
I have a strong grasp of an unusually wide variety of philosophies and religions. It brings me endless enjoyment to understand where people are coming from. I've won a couple philosophical writing awards.
As for math and computer science, I'm your run-of-the-mill strong student. I excel at proofs and logic, but I don't enjoy programming much. I'd love to learn more math—a minor doesn't feel like enough!
As someone dubiously planning a career affiliated with the U.S. Department of Defense, I would really appreciate an analysis of working inside and outside of The System. Historically, have altruists been able to do good from within harmful governments (fascist dictatorships, military juntas, genocidal governments, etc.)? How? Which qualities do altruism-friendly systems have?
"I only ask of GodThat I am not indifferent to the pain,That the dry death won’t find meEmpty and alone, without having done the sufficient."
"But those who fill with blissAll beings destitute of joy,Who cut all pain and suffering awayFrom those weighed down with misery,Who drive away the darkness of their ignorance— What virtue could be matched with theirs?What friend could be compared with them?What merit is there similar to this?"
"The great should never be abandoned for the less,And others' good should be regarded as supreme."
"If with kindly generosityOne merely has the wish to sootheThe aching heads of other beingsSuch merit knows no bounds.No need to speak then, of the wishTo drive away the endless painOf each and every living being,Bringing them unbounded excellence.”
“If the simple thought to be of help to othersExceeds in worth the worship of the Buddhas,What need is there to speak of actual deedsThat bring about the weal and benefit of beings?”
from Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra (The Way of the Bodhisattva) by Śantideva
I can't resist mentioning that Mahayana Buddhism considers meditation to be an altruistic act because it fosters wisdom and compassion. Sam Harris' Waking Up app is particularly great at taking meditation seriously; plus, the company has taken the Giving What We Can pledge.
Many charities and hospitals accept knitted and crocheted donations, and they usually prefer super-affordable acrylic. When I was learning to knit and crochet as a little kid, I donated a lot of preemie- and newborn-sized hats. The great thing about these crafts is that they can be either easy and meditative or creative and engaging.
In the spirit of Aaron Gertler's expansion on calling elderly relatives, we can extend "feeding stray cats" to spending time with animals. This can be as small as giving some extra attention to local animals--in my case, I like to hang out with the cows and sheep at my university who are destined to become meat--or as significant as volunteering at a farm sanctuary.
Here's a looking-at-the-bright-side sort of progress:
I've been bewildered for most of this year about why I'm struggling so much to get things done. Just 2020-related stress doesn't explain it.
Well, I think I've figured out that I'm just really burned out (or, as Cal Newport puts it, in a state of "deep procrastination").
...in one of my two majors! So, I've changed the burned-out major to a minor. Now I'll graduate in just a few months, giving me more time to learn things and explore career options (which I'm suddenly more excited about).
My path ahead isn't exactly straightforward, but at least I've gained some valuable knowledge about what it could look like.