Paul_Christiano comments on Contra the Giving What We Can pledge - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Paul_Christiano 20 December 2016 02:47:51AM 6 points [-]

Secondly: An "evil future you" who didn't care about the good you can do through donations probably wouldn't care much about keeping promises made by a different kind of person in the past either, I wouldn't think.

[...] there's no point having a commitment device to prompt you to follow through on something you don't think you should do

Usually we promise to do something that we would not have done otherwise, i.e. which may not be in line with our future self's interests. The promise "I will do X if my future self wants to" is gratuitous.

When I promise to do something I will try to do it, even if my preferences change. Perhaps you are reading "evil" as meaning "lacks integrity" rather than "is not altruistic," but in context that doesn't make much sense.

It seems reasonable for GWWC to say that the GWWC pledge is intended more as a statement of intent than as a commitment; it would be interesting to understand whether this is how most people who come into contact with GWWC perceive the pledge. If there is systematic misperception, it seems like the appropriate response is "oops, sorry" and to fix the misperception.

Thirdly: The coordination thing doesn't really matter here because you are only 'cooperating' with your future self, who can't really reject you because they don't exist yet (unlike another person who is deciding whether to help you).

It does not seem to me that the main purpose of taking the GWWC pledge, nor its main effect, is to influence the pledger's behavior.

Comment author: espertus 24 December 2016 05:01:06PM *  1 point [-]

I totally agree with Paul_Christiano and Telofy: "a pledge that you can un-take is incompatible with my understanding of what a pledge is." I feel as bound by my word as I would be by a legal contract (or perhaps even more). I'm troubled by the people who say you can just untake the pledge later if you change your mind.

I've applied this principle throughout my life. I did not promise my husband that I would love him forever and remain married always; I made promises I knew I could keep (and we're happily married 18 years later). I was unable to join a college honor society because I refused to make a vow that was sprung on us in the initiation ceremony.

While I'd be happy to state an intention to continue giving at least 10% of my income to helping the very poor, I will not make a pledge because, if circumstances dramatically change, I will have to either break it or go against my future best judgment.

Robert Wilbin, whose work I've long admired, writes:

I expect we will be able to do more good if we apply the neurotypical intuitions that most people share.

He may be right, although that excludes some of us. It's good that the EA community is large enough to accommodate different types of people. I hope it is useful to Rob to know why more (generous, principled) people don't take the GWWC pledge and that he can respect our position, even as he focuses on other types of people who benefit from his approach.