Timon Renzelmann

71 karmaJoined Pursuing a graduate degree (e.g. Master's)


Currently, I am studying Sustainable Energy Engineering as a masters degree (focus on energy systems analysis and transformation, policy and management), in Stockholm. I completed a bachelor degree in biomimetics. 

I am involved in the student group of EA KTH as a board member.

I am interested in literature and am writing stories myself since I am 9 years old. 

How others can help me

I am looking to publish the book I wrote about storytelling. If you are or know a publisher interested in such a project, this could really support me. 

How I can help others

I am happy to give feedback on stories (and their potential impact) as well share ideas on how to make them valuable. 


The point I was trying to make is that it is important to value care and that we should be cautious not to judge or discredit or look down on things that may not appear to be maximally effective or optimised. I would not evaluate a soup kitchen intervention as highly effective but also think that doesn't matter in this context. Not everything has to be optimized.

I totally agree with what you're saying, that there doesn't have to be a conflict. The way you describe it, I think that extending care through rational reflection is exactly how things can work out very beautifully.

And I also agree with your second point here, that caring doesn't mean getting "warm fuzzy feelings". And since being welcoming involves being non-judgmental about people, of course we should be open and positive to all!

Thank you Ivy!
I acknowledge that EA may not be for everyone. And I don't want to make EA popular at any cost.
What matters to me is the reason why it might not be for everyone. If someone is just cringing at some unsympathetic social behaviour, or generally disagrees with the ideas, but still feels welcome.
I think it is important to maintain the effectiveness mindset while being careful not to become somewhat sociopathic or come across as a robot, but to remain friendly and approachable as a human being.

Regarding the introductory fellowship, we had a very engaged discussion and the reason for their impression was to a large extent a misunderstanding of the idea. And it is this possibility of misunderstanding the idea that I wanted to highlight.
If, after such a discussion and clarification, they still don't really feel that this would be something for them, I have no problem with wishing them well and good luck and letting them go. But I would also say "the door is open, you are welcome to talk to us again if you like".

I also didn't want to say "you're really cold and need to work on your compassion", I think that would be quite a weird thing to do, honestly. As I tried to mention in the beginning, I feel very lucky to know so many wonderful people in the community. I was just trying to point out risks that I see and the value of these virtues of kindness. So that we don't lose them along the way, but continue to cultivate them.

Thanks Geoffrey for raising this point. I agree that emotional empathy as defined by Paul Bloom can lead to bias and poor moral judgement, and I also appreciate the usefulness of the rational EA ideas you describe. I don't want to throw them out the window and agree with Sam Harris when he says "Reason is nothing less than the guardian of love".
I agree that it is important to focus on effectiveness when judging where to give your money. I was trying to make a very different point.

I was trying to make the point that we should not dismiss the caring part that might still be involved in well-intentioned but poorly executed interventions. And I have tried to make the case for being kind and not dismissing human qualities that do not appear to be efficient. I have tried to show how following these ideas too much, or in the wrong way, can lead to negative social consequences, and that it is important to keep a balance.

In the context of the less effective charities you describe, the problem I see is not warmth or caring, but bias and naivety. To care is to understand. To understand the cause of suffering and the best way to alleviate it. 
I would also like to point out that while Paul Bloom makes a clear case for the problems with emotional empathy and moral judgement, at the end of the book he emphasises its value in social contexts. Also, I was not trying to argue for this kind of empathy, but basically talking about emotional maturity, compassion and kindness. I think you can make kindness impartial, so that it is consistent with moral values, but also so that other people feel that they are dealing with a human being, not a robot.

I'm not advocating going back to being naive and prejudiced, but rather being careful not to exclude human traits like empathy in everyday social interactions just because they might lead to bias when thinking about charity. Wisdom requires emotional as well as rational maturity.

Thank you Moya,

I think you raise two important questions here.

1. That seems to be the million-dollar question, doesn't it? How do you write a bestseller, how do you make a blockbuster film? I didn't focus on this aspect in my research, so I could just give you some conventional wisdom here, which I don't think would be very useful. There are a lot of books out there on the subject. You might want to check out books like Stephen King's memoir 'On Writing', which I really enjoyed. An excellent TED talk I recommend is this one: https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare 

2. I also think that bad stories can (if not be harmful) waste people's time and that this can be a missed potential. Some popular stories, in my opinion, are quite superficial and not really valuable. They just seem to push the right buttons and get people hooked, as if they're scrolling through their social media feed. In the end, it's a waste of time and you don't really feel good about it. So there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. But I think it's also important not to go too far in that direction. Trying to optimise everything, including stories, seems unhealthy to me. Stories are more than simulations, they are art and we should keep them free.