Awesome post Julian!
Just to agree but in a different way.
It's a little unfashionable at the moment, but I still find the old school obligation-style framing of giving pretty convincing.
I'm wearing an expensive suit. The child is drowning.
Sure there's a drowning child, but what we really need is major political change. The child is still drowning.
Ok ok, I get it, but I just got this great new job working on AI governance. The child is still drowning.
Well the real situation is that there are countless children drowning and for me to save this one seems kinda low yield something something population ethics. The child is still drowning.
Giving is great!
Thanks for posting such a considered reply. I think I understand where you're coming from much better now.
I read the Julia Wise article you linked, and thought it made a lot of sense. I don't see any point in feeling bad when we spend our time or money on things that aren't optimised to reduce suffering.
I'm certainly no perfect utilitarian robot myself, I just think that I should be. But I don't feel bad that I'm not, and I don't think I should feel bad.
Reading it again, I think my original reply was too prescriptive, I was probably trying to answer a question that you weren't asking. At the same time, I still believe that you "shouldn't" donate to charities that aren't the most effective ones and that if you were to change your mind and put that money towards e.g. the Against Malaria Foundation, it would be the "right" thing to do, or a "better" thing to do.
So yeah, sorry for seeming preachy. I 100% don't think you should ever feel bad for supporting a charitable cause, there's enough things to worry about without adding that one.
First off, I think this is absolutely the right place for asking these sorts of questions. I’m really glad to have been able to read the discussion of the topic so far. So thanks for introducing it. That being said, I’m unconvinced that EAs should be donating any money to charities focussing on systemic racial injustice right now.
For me, the problem with the question is that it’s putting the cart before the horse. The thing that brings me to the EA community isn’t a particular interest in schistosomiasis, factory farmed fish or nuclear war. Rather, it’s a desire to donate my money to charities that have the highest rates of return per dollar to reduce suffering. The EA community holds charities to extremely high standards of transparency and data collection. It’s the mindset that has led to some of the unusual cause areas that we support. I feel that to start with the cause area and work backwards is akin to doing an experiment to prove a result, rather than to find one.
The burden of proof needs to be on new charities to show us that they are more effective than the ones we currently endorse. If a charity can’t meet that burden of proof, or is yet to meet it, I think we ought not to donate it and continue donating to those charities that have.
I don’t think that you or anyone else should donate any money to a charity based on felt compassion or intuition, and I hope I don’t seem like too much of a robot for saying so, but this is me taking part in the discussion and I'd love to know what others think.
Thought it was a cool article! Particularly liked his self reflection at the end. I think finding ways to integrate some but not all EA principles, or to adhere moderately rather than totally, are really valuable.
Just in terms of the title of this post, he is quick to clarify that the title of his article is:
'Why am I not an EA?'
'What I am not and EA.'
Which I think this title kind of misses...
I'm probably just being pedantic though. Thanks for sharing.