Will Kirkpatrick


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Good altruistic decision-making as a deep basin of attraction in meme-space

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I don't know if altruistic, truth seeking, and self aware are all necessary requirements though.   It seems very much so to me that we're never going to be able to convince the vast majority of people to have the excited attitude about EA that most of us do now. Maybe the right focus of the "altruism" meme like this should be on spreading the first two, altruistic and truth seeking. 

Self awareness seems almost contrary to the idea of a meme like this, given that it relies on the spreading without too much questioning.   Ideas with altruistic frameworks have done well in the past, i.e. ALS ice bucket challenge, but I don't know how you would go about including a second idea into the existing matrix of a meme like that. 

A scientific approach to memetics, I love our weird ideas! 

Keep up the good posts Owen!

Spirituality & Science Policy and Infrastructure

I've actually had some experiences with things like this as well. I first got into meditation by having someone hypnotize me, as an example. 

I think that most things like this have a little bit of truth to them, but that because there's so much extra attached to the concepts that it's hard to separate them out. 

To use a personal example, the other day I was wiki diving and I discovered chaos magic (link below.) I proceeded to pretty much immediately make a sigil. I don't believe in chaos magic by any means, I really think this is  just an application of the placebo effect/some positive thinking to my wall. An example of the "nugget of truth" that I was talking about. 

But it was fun, so I did it. 


All this said, I don't think this type of activity really has a place in EA.  It's just something that I thought was kind of crafty and fun to burn a bored afternoon on.  With regards to this forum though I would recommend posting things like this somewhere else. EA is really focused on trying to do our best, which means that people tend to dislike that type of science-adjacent thinking. 

I've never really gone looking for groups devoted to practicing or debunking ideas like this, really just something I see every now and then in my endless wiki reading.  I do think it would be interesting if you could try to pull those "nuggets" out of the ideas though, because it is an interesting way to look at stuff like that. 

Typing up and talking about how to use that kind of information might be kind of fun!

Careers Questions Open Thread

I agree with you whole heartedly! I definitely feel the pressure to narrow down and it's hard to keep my "eye on the prize" so to speak. 

I try to remind myself that I'm here to make "this" better, and it doesn't matter how I do it. So I've been trying to diversify my overall look at the world. 

I like the list of ideas, I hadn't considered doing an internship or research project, it's not something I'm very familiar with, so I'll have to put a little more thought into it! 

I definitely need to sit down and read everything 80K hours has put out, it's pretty good advice (career and life!)

I'm kind of overwhelmed by the number of options I have, so I'll have to put a lot of thought into it! Luckily for me I've got another year between now and when I have to start really making choices. A little time is better than none! 

Careers Questions Open Thread

 I was one of those kids who was told they were smart and didn't have to do much in high-school. As a result I got hit pretty hard in the face by the requirement of actually trying in college.  Combine this with the fact that I didn't do well away from a support network and you have a pretty bad downward spiral. I eventually recovered, but boy was it a rough couple of years!

Right now I'm looking at either technical work or more general purpose studying: 

The difference between those is a kind of along the Engineering/computer science or Economics/Business divide.

I'm currently thinking that because I already have a background in engineering type work that maybe getting an economics/buisness degree to round myself out would be a good choice. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

I'll throw myself out there!

I've always thought of myself as most likely a Earn to give type person, but I'm looking at starting college in the next year or so and I realized that I'm not a bad  candidate for some really important sounding colleges. (I.E. I imagine Oxford is a long shot, but it's not unimaginable.)

EA seems to be talent constrained in a lot of ways, so if I get into a good college. Should I go direct work? And if so, what degree is most applicable? 

Of note: I'm not turned off by the relative hardness of the degree to earn. So stick me in whatever hellish degree program turns out the best people for the job!

Previous experience:

2 years college with bad grades (I didn't like it)

6 years naval nuclear experience as a reactor operator. 

Make a $10 donation into $35

Anyone financially strapped? PM me and I'll venmo you cash to cover it! 

Does anyone know how the 25$ credit is rewarded? I.E. is it directly applied to the donation you made or is it credited to the account that makes the donation? 

£4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7%

This does sound like one of those rare cases where a little effort can mean a lot of impact, where would you recommend we focus our time and funds? 

What's limiting you and how can I help? 

What are some quick, easy, repeatable ways to do good?

Become a crisis counselor. 

Crisis text line is a non-profit organization devoted to the idea of providing someone to talk to when you really need one. Typically as a crisis counselor you will log on and join the "queue" of people waiting to talk to someone who needs it. When people feel overwhelmed (In crisis) they'll text in, those texts are sent directly to the web browser of the person next in line, and pop up as a chat box. 


  • Immediate ability to help someone in need: delay times of as little as 10 minutes, including the time it takes you to get out your computer.
  • Can be done from your house, directly from your computer.
  • Very emotionally satisfying: There's not many places you can actively talk someone out of a panic attack, off the ledge, or just chat with someone who needs it.
  • Awesome swag: Used in this instance to mean related clothing, coffee mugs, etc. My favorite hoodie is my 200 hour hoodie from CTL!
  • Good training: certification as a crisis counselor is surprisingly good training for an online course. I've considered recommending it to EAs in general for this reason. (Also empathy building)
  • Hours track directly: so reporting any volunteer service is very easy with this (good for resumes and similar things.)
  • Good support network and chat on the platform.


  • Very emotionally demanding/frustrating: often times you'll be upset about how others handle their problems. I put this first because I struggle with this most of all, I want to just shake people and tell them how to get their life together. But as the CC that's not your role (you'll learn more about this in training.)
  • Requires "decent" internet connection.
  • "30 hour" course at the beginning: took me between 6 and 10 hours to complete, so it's not that bad.
  • Background check (not crazy rigorous, but it is a text line)
  • Not super effective, at most you can achieve a 3-1 time ratio (if you're really good)
  • Emotionally draining, I list this again for a different reason. Sometimes talking to someone else about their problems can be overwhelming. Suicide, anxiety, depression, and abuse are common problems that you will confront directly.  Don't drown trying to save anyone. I've  been there, and you're too important for that. Trust me, seriously, you're too important for that.
Mental Health Resource Recommendations

I'm a big fan of Crisis text line, though I'm certainly biased because I volunteer there. If you're looking for a list of mental health resources to peruse. Their list of referrals is pretty good.


You can also text them at 741741 and be connected with someone to text real time, their goal is to get you to someone in under 5 minutes, though they struggle during high traffic hours due to volume.

I'm going to be making a post about them (as a volunteer opportunity) at some point in the future, though work is incredibly demanding right now, so it might be a little while.

Against value drift

Perhaps incentive drift is more accurate, but it certainly seems to rob the individual of their agency. I know I am a collection of the circumstances I was raised in, however, that does not mean that I can pass blame onto those around me when I choose something wrong.

Perhaps the choice between the two words is a difference between Instrumental and Value rationalistic choices. Where a Value rationalist would prefer to use the term Incentive drift because it more accurately describes the reality of this "drift." An Instrumental rationalist would prefer to use the term Value drift, because it is more likely to result in individuals taking precautions, and therefore a better long term outcome for EA as a whole.

As I am an Instrumental rationalist, I believe that sticking with the term "Value drift" would place the emphasis on the individual in circumstances where it matters. We could then use the term "Incentive drift" to refer to the overall effect on people in the community of different features we have. (Thus enabling us to retain the benefits of it's use to describe effects on the community.)

For example, the lack of "Praise" as you refer to it in your link is something that has pushed many individuals away from effective altruism and rationality in general. To use the new word, it causes incentive drift away from EA.

Value drift is a much more individual term to me. The major fear here is no longer contributing to those things that I previously considered valuable. This might be a result of incentive drift, but it is my values that have changed.

Regardless of whether my thoughts are accurate, thank you for taking the time to post today. These are the kinds of posts that keep me coming back to the EA community and I appreciate the time and effort that went into it.

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