Austen_Forrester comments on An argument for broad and inclusive "mindset-focused EA" - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Austen_Forrester 18 July 2017 02:25:59AM 0 points [-]

One thing to keep in mind is that people often (or usually, even) choose the middle ground by themselves. Matt Ball often mentions how this happens in animal rights with people deciding to reduce meat after learning about the merits vegetarianism and mentions that Nobel laureate Herb Simon is known for this realization of people opting for sub-optimal decisions.

Thus, I think that in promoting pure EA, most people will practice weak EA (ie. not cause neutral) on their own accord, so perhaps the best way to proliferate weak EA is by promoting strong EA.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 18 July 2017 08:23:48AM 0 points [-]

This can be an issue, but i think Matt Ball has chosen not to present a strong position because he believes that is offputting, instead he undermines the strong position and presents a sub optimal one. However, he says this is in fact optimal as it reduces more harm.

If applied to EA we would undermine a position we believe might put people off, because it is too complicated / esoteric, and present a first step that will do more good.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 18 July 2017 07:04:23PM *  0 points [-]

My point was that EAs probably should exclusively promote full-blown EA, because that has a good chance of leading to more uptake of both full-blown and weak EA. Ball's issue with the effect of people choosing to go part-way after hearing the veg message is that it often leads to more animals being killed due to people replacing beef and pork with chicken. That's a major impetus for his direct “cut out chicken before pork and beef” message. It doesn't undermine veganism because chicken-reducers are more likely to continue on towards that lifestyle, probably more so even than someone who went vegetarian right away Vegetarians have a very high drop out rate, but many believe that those who transitioned gradually last longer.

I think that promoting effectively giving 10% of one's time and/or income (for the gainfully employed) is a good balance between promoting a high impact lifestyle and being rejected due to high demandingness. I don't think it would be productive to lower the bar on that (ie. By saying cause neutrality is optional).

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 20 July 2017 06:28:08AM *  0 points [-]

On the face of it, the idea does sound quite good. However, we need to place it into a broader movement context and look at how it has been evaluated to consider how effective it is likely to be, and what other impacts the approach has that aren’t immediately clear.

A central issue with EA is that it says for instance, that we need to consider scope, neglectedness and tractability, but meeting this criteria doesn’t then lead to effectiveness, or optimal outcomes, it just flags that it is an approach worth more consideration.

Consequently, we can note the ‘pragmatic’ trend in EA support for animal related groups, but this trend isn’t well understood, and neither is it contextualised. Where we are trying to be inclusive and encourage more people into EA then this is the type of thing we need to consider, so we need to consider things like ideology and organisational / movement culture when determining how groups inter-relate and what impact this has. I think for many people who are looking at different aspects of EA, they don’t have the time to do this, and expect EAAs to do this work, but there isn’t any evidence this form of evaluation has been taking place up to now. My own observation of the movement is that this is a neglected area, and will likely be quite important in terms of inclusion.

In terms of EA, the trade off would be making EA look more appealing by diminishing it in terms of elitism, specifically where a certain ‘lower’ section of EAs were to say they aren’t like the ‘higher’ ones. The corollary in the animal movement is to claim veganism is extreme, all or nothing, fundamentalist, angry, crazy, puritan, dogmatic, absolutist, hardline and so on. These are stereotypes that Matt Ball, Tobias Leenaert and Brian Kateman have played on in order to centre their pragmatic (or not vegan) approach. I think people who have paid attention to what they say are likely to recognise this (see in particular Matt Ball’s recent Vox video), it is just that rights activists are more sensitive to it because it infringes on our work.

I think it is possible to claim the work of the mainstream groups hasn’t been contextualised, or even criticised from within EA, it has largely been encouraged and supported by EAs and other mainstream animal activists because it either sounds good on the face of it, or it hasn’t caused any issues for the work they are doing, or it is simply expedient to go along with that flow. We can also look at the divisions created and perpetuated and ask whether we really want to replicate the behaviour of some EAs within the animal movement and transfer that into EA. I think the answer would be no, however, we would then still need to consider whether we ought to be validating that work in the organisations that EAs support, and I would say no to that as well.


Disrupting the animal movement: https://qz.com/829956/how-the-vegan-movement-broke-out-of-its-echo-chamber-and-finally-started-disrupting-things/

Focus on Fish: A Call to Effective Altruists: http://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1567&context=eip

Utilitarian equivocation and moral consistency: https://network23.org/orcasandanimals/2017/06/21/effective-altruism-for-animals-utilitarian-equivocation-and-moral-consistency/