Teo Ajantaival

I work as a researcher at the Center for Reducing Suffering. I’m currently working on psychological questions related to minimalist views and on reasons to be careful about the practical implications of abstract formalisms.

I have MA and BA degrees in psychology from the University of Helsinki, with minors in mathematics, cognitive science, statistics, computer science, and analytic philosophy.

Main interests

  • motivation theory, value theory
  • cause prioritization, long-term risks
  • good books :)


Minimalist Axiologies

Topic Contributions


Peacefulness, nonviolence, and experientialist minimalism


Your comment above makes all sense regarding the literal questions (even if not the implicit worries that I intended to respond to); thanks for elaborating. :)

Still, I would not reduce my (theoretical) response to the implicit worries all the way down to "yes, but actually that's fine and you shouldn't be worried about it". The "yes" is buried in the middle in 2.3 because it's not the end of the theoretical response. After that, the following sections 2.4–2.6 still address a lot of points that may be relevant for our potential intuitions (such as worries) about endorsing cessation even in theory.

For example, I certainly feel worried myself about endorsing cessation of the 'near-perfect paradise' (even in theory), but I don't tell myself that I "shouldn't be worried about it". Instead, I note (as I do in 2.4) that it seems perfectly fine to both endorse experientialist minimalist consequentialism in theory and to simultaneously deeply account for all the practical reasons that we have to side less with the relatively unpopular ideal of emptiness and more with the equal* and more popular ideal of untroubled lives.

(* equal for minimalists.)

Regarding worried intuitions, I of course also encourage people to compare whether they feel more worried about the (theoretical) minimalist cessation implications than about the (likewise theoretical) implications of offsetting views presented in 2.5. The latter strike me and many others as far more worrisome, so I'd prefer to also highlight that contrast as far as the worries (and not only the literal questions) are concerned.

In any case, I really appreciate that you read my post even if we might have different intuitions about these thought experiments. :)

Peacefulness, nonviolence, and experientialist minimalism

Hi Rohin; I apologize for being vague and implicit; I agree that the first question is not complex, and I should've clarified that I'm primarily responding to the related (but in the post, almost completely implicit) worries which I think are much more complex than the literal questions are. You helped me realize just now that the post may look like it's primarily answering the written-down questions, even though the main reason for all my elaboration (on the assumptions, possible biases, comparison with offsetting views, etc.) was to respond to the implicit worries.

Regarding whether the answers to the first two questions are straightforwardly "yes", I would still note that such a one-word answer would lack the nuance that is present in what Magnus wrote above (and which I noted already in the overview because I think it's relevant for the worries).

(I'll continue a bit under your other comment.)

Arguments for Why Preventing Human Extinction is Wrong

In relation to purely suffering-focused views, I also argue here that people may sometimes jump to hasty conclusions about human extinction due to certain forms of misconceived (i.e. non-impartial) consequentialism, and argue (drawing on the linked resources) that an impartial approach would imply strong heuristics of cooperation and nonviolence.

Peacefulness, nonviolence, and experientialist minimalism

Only semi-interested or want to rest your eyes? The Nonlinear Library’s auto-narration reads this post quite well, though I recommend checking the diagrams in 2.3 and 2.5.

(SpotifyAppleGoogle | Duration of main text: 45 minutes.)

Peacefulness, nonviolence, and experientialist minimalism

Thanks for summarizing it.

The worries I respond to are complex and the essay has many main points. Like any author, I hope that people would consider the points in their proper context (and not take them out of context). One main point is the contextualization of the worries itself, which is highlighted by the overviews (1.1–1.2) focusing a lot on the relevant assumptions and on minding the gap between theory and practice.

To complex questions, I don't think it's useful to reduce answers to either "yes" or "no", especially when the answers rest on unrealistic assumptions and look very different in theory versus practice. Between theory and practice, I also tend to consider the practical implications more important.

Against the "smarts fetish"
a reason to focus more on these other important traits relative to IQ — at the level of what we seek to develop individually and incentivize collectively — is that many of these other traits and skills probably are more elastic and improvable than is IQ

+1. To the extent that IQ may be difficult to improve, it seems good to focus on improving the other important virtues. Yet perhaps people might (for some roles) select heavily for IQ precisely because it — unlike the more improvable virtues — can not so easily be improved after the selection.

(This might also in part explain how commenters might be sometimes talking of different things, i.e. "what to cultivate" versus "what to select for".)

Four categories of effective altruism critiques

Re: community, people have discussed potential downsides of the name 'effective altruism'.

(Independent of any wishes to change the name of existing EA things, I think it's good to be aware of those potential downsides.)

Four categories of effective altruism critiques

Thanks; I (too) briefly tried imagining other categories, but was quite happy with those four!

Regarding the first distinction, there is this recent (free) book that argues for the possibility of better politics by more strongly keeping normative and empirical assumptions separate from each other (which is called "the two-step ideal" in Chapter 1, pp. 9–17). I read the book twice and found it very illuminating on that distinction. Note that the book itself takes no normative step until Chapter 7, so it's not all about reducing suffering.

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