Oh, this is good. I want more.Thanks!
I am happy to read your arguments! Again, I do not intend to carry out a serious investigation of the topic until I have the time and energy to do it with full charity towards both sides and the ability to actually update, but I am glad to have evidence I can evaluate with more focus and in more detail when I do."You are assuming their lives are net util even if their lives may be miserable. (which I think is the repugnant conclusion? I've never really liked the framing of it either) Let's break this down."Not quite. I am assuming their lives are not subje... (read more)
I've just submitted two stories! Hopefully they've landed properly. Thanks for the form!
I can understand that, logically speaking, but it does not suffice to convince me. This is especially true because of the % of people who attempt suicide, don't die, and say later it was a giant mistake and they regret it. I could imagine a world in which people were usually or even often wrong both about committing suicide and not committing suicide, but it seems to me like a lot of added complexity.
I agree completely.
I was absolutely implying this! That was a fundamental part of my system, which went unspoken and which I am happy to defend.And it's why I pointed out that you don't seem to have even semicommon mass suicide in the classical world, before the rise of Judeo-Christian beliefs on Heavenly and Hellish fates, when people think of the afterlife as grey fuzz if they think there is an afterlife and when culture often considers it morally heroic to commit suicide, rather than sinful. It seems more common, then, but even then it's very rare, almost always only in c... (read more)
Yeah, IIRC both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis wrote about how anyone can just say "the future will agree with me," as a way of getting support for your ideas, but nobody really knows about the future and probably everyone is wrong because the future will be more complicated than anyone thinks, and so arguments from the future are bad logic and invalid. (I think that Lewis's is a bit of the Screwtape Letters and that Chesterton's essay is in "What's Wrong With The World.") So I endorse this complaint.But I didn't include that in my description because I do in fact think veganism will take over the world once the technology gets far enough, so that wasn't my true objection to the story.
(Part 3 of 3, threaded because I want to discuss different things you bring up in different places.)"You said you feel threatened by a piece like this which paints the current treatment of animals as something that will be viewed as horrific in the future and understand you may contribute in a small way to that? What do you make of the current treatment of animals in our society? (I'm very open to hearing your thoughts, even if they may be very different than my own)"I appreciate it!For clarification: I would not describe myself as "feeling threatened" in ... (read more)
I'm not sure if you're implying this: 'the neutral point of welfare is close to the point at which someone commits suicide'
If so, I'd argue that these points are often very far apart: there's tremendous evolutionary and social pressure against suicide, as well as that people can suffer immensely but hope the future will be better.
Therefore, I don't expect suicide rate to be very predictive of quality of life.
(Part 2 of 3, threaded because I want to discuss different things you bring up in different places.)"Also, the goal for a piece like this isn't just to convince people to go vegan. It's also to make vegans reflect about their own engagement on the issue."I believe that the EA writing contest was established to fund the creation of art that would persuade people who are not currently EA of EA causes and make them think more highly of EA. Insofar as I am wrong, I am wrong; insofar as I am not wrong, art-for-rallying-the-base is not actually bad, but is off-topic for the contest.
I am perfectly willing to have a long, point-by-point disagreement with you! I'm going to divide it into three threads, though; one for the actual argument about veganism, one for a side note about your second-to-last paragraph, and one for the meta-argument about pointy persuasion vs nice persuasion. This post is for the last; that is, for the statement:"There is a place for delicate and tender art, and other art should be more pointed and direct."I'm going to disagree. I think that, in terms of 'ideological art', there is a place for art that persuades b... (read more)
Ha!Yeah, that's something where I think it would be a correct invocation of the rule if we wanted to implement the rule, but I don't think we want to implement the rule, so it's just funny. :P
I am glad you are not unhappy with my post! I apologize if I am being too aggressive in this and I don't want to offend you.But... I do identify with Whittaker. And I don't really feel that my opinion on how someone might view animal welfare has been altered, because - I feel threatened, and that isn't a good state to change your mind in? Insofar as I have reactions, they aren't scout-mindset I-desire-to-open-my-mind-to-the-topic, they're soldier-mindset I-am-under-intellectual-attack-and-must defend myself. I grant that you are probably correct that the f... (read more)
I... hmm. I'd guess the basic thing going on is irrational defensiveness of the sort where any documentary about the Israel/Palestine mess is going to get blasted by both sides because it is clearly and obviously biased in favor of the other side, regardless of how balanced it actually is? Like, writing a story about cancel culture in the future that doesn't condemn it is endorsing it? I'm trying to unpack my brain's explanation and I'm really not finding it a very convincing explanation.I think the best I can come up with, in defensive-mode not explanatio... (read more)
That is 100% reasonable and I am probably not behaving reasonably! But I think the fact that I did freak out suggests that the way I read the story is at least plausible and that people having my reaction is a risk?
I'm pretty sure you already know about this old EA Scott Alexander post, but just to be sure: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pC47ZTsPNAkjavkXs/efficient-charity-do-unto-others
This story is on an issue where I do not agree with the standard EA consensus, so I feel as if my voice may be useful as an example of a 'person not yet persuaded', since that group is presumably the target audience for this fiction.My body has completely switched over from 'relaxed, cheerful, listening to a story' to 'under threat'; sweating, faster heartbeats, soldier mindset instead of explorer, how-do-I-defend-myself-as-fast-as-I-can. I think this will not be a good story to make other people like EA more. I think it will make them like EA less.To help... (read more)
I appreciate your perspective on the piece. It's very interesting. I think when it comes to recognizing animal welfare, different things work for different people. So I think your criticism is valid and I can see this piece potentially pushing some people away from the movement who may feel targeted or shamed which is a limitation of it. (especially if they identify with Whittaker in the piece) That said, Emrik and Dicentra did a very nice job articulating some of my goals with it.
Ultimately, I think it just tries to shake up how someone might view a... (read more)
I didn't read this short story as supporting cancel culture at all. To me, the good guys in this story are the people who advocate for recognising that people can have both good and bad sides. And the main point of celebration is that they're talking about factory farming as a troubling past history, just like they talk about slavery today. Did you read it differently?
Interesting! I totally didn't interpret the story as being particularly supportive of cancel culture or indicating that the statue should be removed. I read it more as a straightforward meditation on what extrapolating various current trends might look like, without doing much to nudge the readers towards a particular stance on those trends or on that outcome.
I did not understand what the story was trying to say, very well. It just seemed to me to be 'a series of bad things happened because of failures of effective communication and understanding?' I can read it as a criticism of overconfidence, but I feel as if there have already been a lot of criticisms of overconfidence, and at this point I'm kind of worried we need more criticisms of underconfidence? I did not end up with very strong opinions about the story in any particular way, and I suspect it was a failure of my understanding at least as much as a failure of the story.
I think this is a very cute, clever story! I appreciate it and have upvoted it! I don't think I have any clever comments, though I'll let you know if I think of any.
This is a very nice little story and I definitely liked it. Thank you for writing it.
This absolutely amused me, in a grim way. Thanks.
Reply-edit for clarification to expand my response to one of your points: I think it is worth, in a lot of situations, judging based on "should it have worked," instead of "did it work." That your model predicted it shouldn't work and it did work is evidence your model is seriously flawed, just to be clear, I'm not arguing we should completely throw out the experiment and just go with our previous model, but, also, we shouldn't say "the one guy who won the lottery was right and everyone else was wrong," because everyone who bought a ticket had the same cha... (read more)
I'm glad you aren't offended! I get easily worried that I might be saying things in an offensive manner and I appreciate you reassuring me that I didn't! I am always very happy to write long and elaborate reviews of fiction and I am glad you appreciated it.And I would agree that the protagonist is evil (indeed, he admits he is evil - he's quite clear that he enjoyed what he did) and also took a set of actions which may have had net-positive utility. I don't think we know that it did; it's possible that some vague combination of making people distrust EA-st... (read more)
I'm sorry, but I don't have anything to say about the story, because I didn't 'get' what it was saying.Sorry. I don't know what you were trying to do because whatever you were trying to do you didn't succeed in doing it to me.
I really like your long version, myself, but I'm already familiar with EA. :)
Also I want to do a completely separate post in response to one of your short comments:"What's wrong with the speaker's super-harsh utilitarianism?"My immediate response, just automatic on reflex without engaging my brain's slow mode, is "planning fallacy / arrogance / sin of pride." What's wrong is that he assumes he's in a sufficiently strong level of knowledge, self-discipline, and self-control that he actually can pull off his ubermensch act, instead of it all going horribly wrong and blowing up in his face. That's always what's wrong with characters d... (read more)
(For clarification: Step One is that the story has to work as a story, I agree with that completely, if I'm passing that over in my response, it isn't because I disagree, but because I agree too much to have anything interesting to say on it.)
The odd thing is, I would use HPMOR as a model of how to do it right. Its main failing is that it fails to make it clear that the protagonist isn't a perfect propaganda figure, and shouldn't be emulated - that the audience ends up thinking that the protagonist is making giant mistakes throughout the story because the author thinks those are the correct decisions, not because he's an eleven-year-old in over his head. But the author agrees with him enough that if you aren't paying careful attention, he comes off as an arrogant jerk the author endorses, inste... (read more)
I second everything Sophia said, but would like to raise a few other points to clarify:First, I also dislike works-that-fit-in-my-brain's-internal-category-labeled-propaganda. (As some evidence of this, I'll offer my comment on 'blue bird and black bird'.) Nonetheless I feel that there is an enormous range for stories in which "make people reading it think more kindly of X" is a clear goal that do not fit in my brain's internal category of propaganda. It's quite clear that Lois McMaster Bujold is opposed to eternal smouldering guerilla wars of resistance a... (read more)
This is a beautiful story, but I don't actually expect reading it to make people think more kindly of effective altruism. I could, of course, be wrong.
I am commenting purely to let you know that one of the thumbs-up on your post is mine.
Last I saw, "The Reset Button" was leading it by one vote.
I'm sorry, but I have the weirdest bit of commentary to give on this: There's several places where the comma is outside the quotes (if you do a search for ", you'll find them) and it's making me go all twitchy-eyed. I'm about 95% confident commas are supposed to go inside the quotes, the way other punctuation does, at least in English? Sorry about this.
I could be mistaken, but I feel as if that would completely change it into a different sort of thing. I admit it would be a thing that I-personally would probably like more, but I feel it would also remove all the power the story currently possesses. I feel as if this would be removing a thing from existence and replacing it with a new and different thing, instead of improving a thing - and this is clearly a popular thing, since it's the second-highest-rated submission to the contest, so far.
I have a question for you, and I think the answer might help make the story clearer.Under what context is your narrator giving this explanation? Why is he saying all this? What's the framing device for it? Because if he's trying to explain quick history to someone who doesn't know it (why doesn't the person know it? A small child? A foreigner? Just someone technologically ignorant?), he has no reason to bring up the analogue-vegetarians at all. Just "this is how cars work." If the listener then asks (possibly offpage) if this is wrong, he can explain ... (read more)
I mean, I see these as totally different things (preventing suffering in Nigeria - well, and other third-world countries - is why I'm here), but that's probably moving outside the question as posed. I wouldn't be willing to be a butcher, but that's squeamishness, not a moral decision; I wouldn't want to be a plumber, either.But... actually no I think I'm going to move my actual advice to the 'do you have recommendations' thread just above. See you there!
On my second reread, I figured out what was supposed to be going on in the events, if not the meaning of the story. But while I considered factory farming as one possibility for the thing it was supposed to be equivalent to, I felt the analogy whiff, and so decided it probably wasn't what you intended.The reason is, the story depends on your initial belief that animal suffering (specifically the suffering of chickens) is fundamentally important. But what it's trying to convince you of is that animal suffering is fundamentally important. So it's a closed lo... (read more)
I'm sorry, but I straightforwardly don't get the story. It definitely feels like it's trying to make a grand analogy but the analogy does not, for me, connect. I don't know what it's trying to say - there's about twenty potential things I could imagine it having been written to be analogous to, all of which seem to me no more than 40%-70% fitting - and so I got no emotional charge out of reading it, only vague curiosity as to what it was meant for.
Thank you! I've bookmarked it.
This is a good story and I'm glad you got published, I just don't see the relevance to the EA contest. I'm glad you submitted it because it meant I got to read it, and it was totally worth reading, it's just that I don't really read it as "EA". If that makes sense?
Well, this was absolutely terrifying. Thanks for writing it.
I actually read the protagonist as 'probably suffering from radiation poisoning, might be about to literally die from the next bomb or the building collapsing' as of the moment before they hit the reset, so I would see such planning as irrational rather than sensible - a little information might help, but not if it risks your life (which is what you're thinking about if you're selfish) or the fate of the world (which is what you're thinking about if you're selfless).
It makes some sense? The added thing makes everything more confusing, though.Reading what you say feels like I'm reading words that have been translated out of a foreign language and culture, or are writing in 17th-century English by a 17th-century author, or maybe you're a time traveler from the 22nd century and there's been linguistic drift since then? Or maybe you're a Zen monk and speak in koans? It isn't that I feel your culture is inconsistent or anything, it's just that you seem to be using words as if they had obvious secondary meanings and connotations that they don't have in my language.
I'm sorry, but, having read it, I don't know what your religion is.This is a serious statement: I don't actually know what you're trying to say, after having read it. I don't even know what you mean by writing-against or writing-towards.I think you may be slightly understating the extent to which the transparency illusion applies.
Also, different comment that I'm kicking myself for not bringing up until now:The Submission Grinder is a website that tracks places where people who write SF&F can submit stories. If you can get listed with them, that ought to bring more attention to the contest. Here's the link: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/
Ah, but are there a thousand hacking at the branches of evil for each one who thinks they are striking at the root?
I'm afraid my downvote wasn't articulate, but instinctive: It seemed like it wasn't actually saying anything, just being philosophical for the sake of being philosophical, or poetic for the sake of being poetic. I can't actually figure out how to translate it into what I think of as 'plain English'; I can't give a one-sentence summary of the themes, or of what you're trying to say, and it didn't reach the extraordinary (staggering) level of poetic beauty that would make me upvote it anyway, just because I enjoyed the words as music without knowing th... (read more)
See, the thing is, I can't find any improvements because the entire premise feels to me inherently propaganda-ish. I'm sorry, I can try to break it down into more detail, but I suspect that it will be unfixable for me.I'm going to try to rank the main bullet points of my discomfort in order of how important they are, most to least.• I feel very uncomfortable with the entire dynamic of a 'right way / wrong way' pair. Partly this is because of individual cases where people using it ticked me off, but fundamentally it is that the idea of the character 'who ex... (read more)
My specific worry is about people coming to the conclusion that it is "a problem with EA," or "a problem with consequentialism," instead of "a problem with organizations," and thereby making people who hadn't heard of EA becoming more negatively (instead of more positively) inclined towards it.
I am a writer (though not a published one) and I second his judgement. I felt brief disquiet at the line he commented on, but didn't analyze it until I read his post because the story as a whole had still worked very well for me. I think the change makes a good story better, and I thank both Steve for suggesting it and Joshua for implementing it.