106Joined Feb 2016


The idea of introducing social justice into an existing movement has already been tried, and I think it's worth going over the failures and problems that social justice has caused in the atheist movement before jumping headlong into it in the EA movement. This reddit page about why Atheism+ failed makes for interesting reading:

Unfortunately, the people who ended up in charge of the movement cared much more about perpetuating their radical ideologies, their cults of personality, and their easy paycheques than any of these issues. ... No matter how noble your cause, someone who practices dishonesty, censorship, intimidation, and harassment in alleged pursuit of that cause is not your friend.

See also this:

Attempts to interfere with harassment policies and promoting the (unevidenced) idea that atheist meetings are hotbeds of sexual exploitation have slashed female attendance at events like TAM which were practically on 50/50 parity. Rather than trying to invest in the future of the movement or seek the best and most effective speakers there’s an insistence on the basis of gender rather than expertise. Not that there aren’t good speakers of all genders but when you pass over expert male speakers to include sub-par ones with axes to grind rather than progress to make that’s an issue

it continues:

There’s also something peculiar in claiming to be atheists and skeptics while suspending skepticism when it comes to certain claims – like the highly questionable 1-in-4 rape statistic or broader concepts like patriarchy and rape culture. Skepticism or demands for evidence in these arenas is treated as hostility.

The post by Kelly that I am responding to seems to contain several red flags indicating that EA+SJ is falling into the same traps that Atheism+SJ fell into;

  • suspending healthy skepticism of questionable claims,
  • advocating identity categories over competence,
  • supporting the silencing of dissenting opinions and abandoning free speech

As I said in another comment: don't say you weren't warned if this goes badly.

Came to say this as well.

See, for example:

The atheists even started to disinvite their intellectual founders, e.g. Richard Dawkins. Will EA eventually go down the same path - will they end up disinviting e.g. Bostrom for not being a sufficiently zealous social justice advocate?

All I'm saying is that there is a precedent here. If SJW-flavored EA ends up going down this path, please don't say you were not warned.

Thanks for the info on the worm wars, will look into it.

I think that functionalism is incorrect and that we are super-confused about this issue.

Specifically, there is merit to the "Explanatory gap" argument. See

I also sort of think I know what the missing thing is. It's that the input is connected to the algorithm that constitutes you.

If this is true, there is no objective fact-of-the-matter about which entities are conscious (in the sense of having qualia). From my point of view only I am conscious. From your point of view, only you are. Neither of us are wrong.

I do think indeed every physical punishment, however "mild" or "reasonable", is child abuse

I think this claim is a bit problematic...

  • moral claim masquerading as factual via reification of moral categories (there is no objective fact of the matter about whether something is or is not child abuse)
  • supporting a deontological claim with consequentialist evidence of harm that (presumably) arises from only a subset the more extreme violations
  • never physically punishing children is a much​ less defensible, less persuasive position than doing so in a limited set of circumstances

If a shanty town opens down the road from me, giving me the option to live like the global poor, I become richer relative to my neighbors, but I don't become richer in absolute terms. Even if a shanty town opened, I'd buy the same stuff as before, so my quality of life would be exactly the same.

I think this is incorrect. Right now I am looking for accommodation. The cheapest option I can find (which doesn't have a working washing machine and is a single small room with shared facilities) costs €5400 per year. It would be very useful for me to have the option to live in a room of quality and price at the level of the 75th or 80th percentile in India. Eyeballing the graph above, the 80th percentile in India is on $1500 or so. They can't be paying more than $700 for their accommodation.

I have to go live in this room - the alternatives are even more expensive, or being homeless and losing my job.

I agree that the shanty town wouldn't help me - I would stink of feces and quickly lose my job on personal hygiene grounds - but the 50th and 75th and 80th percentiles in India do not live in 'shanty towns'. Or am I completely misinformed here?

The reason the super cheap goods the global poor buy don't exist in the West is because no-one wants them.

that's false - they don't exist because the government bans or taxes them, or because of cost disease. In almost every relevant category (cars, accommodation, food, household goods), the government bans you from buying the cheap options.


  • Bike helmet made in China for $3 but sells for €40. (Compulsory safety testing to ludicrously high standards, tax, overheads)
  • Want to buy a second hand toaster? Nope, banned in many countries because it might be hazardous. Pay for a new one, including all the tax and overheads and then when you've finished, throw the old one away.
  • Learn to drive in the UK as a new young, male driver)? That'll be £1500 for lessons, plus £3800 for insurance Why? Do people in India or Brazil need to pay that much? You tell me!
  • Want to buy a cheap new car like the Tata Nano? Nope, your government has banned it because it's 99.999% safe rather than 99.9999% safe.
  • Surely a speeding fine will be inconsequential to someone in the top 1% of the global income distribution, because the harm from speeding on a road is a fixed quantity? No, the government wisely decided to make it it scale with your income!
  • want to buy/rent a very small house/flat/room? Nope! It has to have a bunch of amenities and features that you don't need, by law.
  • Want to buy a simple product like milk at market price? Nope! The government, media and farming lobby are getting together to make sure that consumers subsidize unprofitable dairy farms.

I think the key here is that once you have some money, the government finds many ways to take that money away from you, and those ways tend to scale as a percentage of your income for people in the range that we are talking about ($1000-$100,000). Being able to afford a place to live has a minimum threshold which depends on the average income in your country.

If you (in the west) fall behind in this race to make enough money so that once the government has thieved from you at both ends you can still afford a room to live, you end up falling into the homelessness trap which is very hard to escape from and is actually worse than the life of a median person in India.

it would indeed be harder to live in the west on $2/day, because the low-quality goods that the global poor use are not available to buy. I think the relevant comparison is more like "if there were lots of people living on $2/day in the west, what quality of living would you get?". It's artificial to imagine one person living in extreme poverty without a market and community around them.

OK, so maybe appeals to donate money based on factors of 100 wealth difference should be limited to people who actually have a third-world price/quality market for (food, accommodation, shelter) available to them. Hmmmm OK that would be no-one at all.

Then we come to this:

You could, of course, doubt the existing estimates. My general policy is to go with the expert view when it comes to issues that have been thoroughly researched,


The PPP adjustments are meant as a hypothetical "what you could buy on $2 per day if the same goods were sold in stores, or if there were lots of other poor people in the country".

So they've thoroughly researched a question which is completely different than the one I care about, which is what I can actually buy and do.

As an inhabitant of a rich country, you get to consume lots of extra public goods that aren't fully included in the post-tax income figures in these data-sets e.g. safety, clean air, beautiful buildings, being surrounded by lots of educated people.

But these things are mostly not worth the massive amount of tax money I have to pay. And that's partly because that tax money is not being spent on me, (I have looked at government spending and the part of the pie that is spent on "things that childless healthy 30 year-olds want" is extremely small.), partly because taxation is progressive so punishes people who earn well, and partly because others in the west have different preferences about how much to spend reducing various risks (such as the risk of a $50,000 car being damaged in a collision with my $1000 old banger).

I would contend that I am not (on $60k) 100 times richer than the average Indian, at least not in the same way that someone on $6M is 100 times richer than me; the way that they really can buy my entire life 90 times over and still be way better off than me.

Anyway, thanks for responding to me, best regards, Jaded.

I think that on £1.53/day you could easily die, depending on your location (esp. cold locations). No food in the bins for a while, police evict you from your tent or destroy your shelter, you get drenched with water and then really cold, you get an injury or infection.

Are these kind of things (dying from exposure or hunger, police bulldoze your house) actually happening all the time to the median person in India at $700? I don't think so. I don't imagine it's easy to be the median average Indian, but I expect that you would have a shack, and food, and not freeze to death.

Also, there is a larger issue here. Being "100 times richer" than someone hides a lot of important assumptions. Let me grant the point that I could survive as a barely-alive hobo for £1.53/day. Well, that existence is not compatible with having a job in the west. There are amounts of money that I have to spend whether I like it or not, if I am to continue to earn any money at all, let alone my current salary. Others have argued that that restriction is irrelevant since it isn't binding, but actually I would quite like the option to live in a really small room in sharing facilities with 4 people if it was 4x cheaper. The option just isn't on the market. I am looking for accommodation right now, and plenty of people want to sell me 50m^2 for $1000/month with a 3 month penalty clause ($3000!) if I want to leave in less than 3 years, but no-one is selling 12m^2 for $250/month. In fact, the government in my country (western Europe) has passed laws that prevent me from living in a student house (closer to what I want to pay), because I am not a student; they have deliberately split the housing market into two and made people with jobs ineligible for the cheaper half. I would like to pay insurance that only paid out to a maximum of $1000 because that is all my car is worth, but other people on the roads drive $50000 cars and that impacts my premium. Then there's the social aspect of wealth. If I lived with the same quality of stuff that an Indian person at the 75th percentile of wealth in India lived on, and took a girl back to my shack, she would urgently have something else to do; whereas I can imagine a female from the 50th percentile in pretty much any place being impressed by a male from the 75th percentile.

With all these things in mind, I would say that I am not 100 times richer than a guy in India earning $700. If I were earning $70,000 IN INDIA, I would say it would be closer to the truth (though some of the same problems would apply, especially having to spend money to hold down a white collar job). For starters, I could easily afford a servant or three on that kind of money in India, which paints a picture that is more intuitively commensurate with the factor of 100 that the numbers imply.

Anyway, thanks for responding, I realize your time is valuable!

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