Kathy_Forth comments on The almighty Hive will - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Kathy_Forth 29 January 2018 12:27:15AM *  7 points [-]

For this group to make an effective social safety net for EAs having a bad time, more is needed than just money. When a real problem actually does arise, people tend to spam that person with uninformed suggestions which won't work. They're trying to help, but due to the "what you see is all there is" bias and others, they can't see that they are uninformed and spamming. The result is that the problem doesn't seem real to anyone.

So, the person who has a problem, who may not have any time or emotional energy or even intellectual capacity left over, must explain why dozens of spitball suggestions won't work.

How spitballing can totally sabotage people in need of help:

Imagine that to obtain help, you have to patiently and rigorously evaluate dozens of ill-conceived suggestions, support your points, meet standards of evidence, seem to have a positive attitude about each suggestion, and try not to be too frustrated with the process and your life.

The task of convincing people your problem is real while a bunch of friends are accidentally spamming you with clever but uninformed suggestions might be the persuasive challenge of a lifetime. If any of the ill-conceived options still seem potentially workable to your friends, you will not be helped. To succeed at this challenge, you have to make sure that every spitball you receive from friends is thoroughly addressed to their satisfaction.

A person with a real problem will be doing this challenge when they're stressed out, time poor and emotionally drained. They are at their worst.

A person at their worst shouldn't need to take on the largest persuasive challenge of their lives at that time. To assume that they can do this is about as helpful as "Let them eat cake.".

There's an additional risk that people will sour on helping you if they see that lots of solution ideas are being rejected. This is despite the fact that the same friends will tell you "most ideas will fail" in other circumstances. They know that ideas are often useless, but instead of realizing that the specific set of ideas in question are uninformed or not helpful, some people will jump to the conclusion that the problem is your attitude.

Just the act of evaluating a bunch of uninformed spitball suggestions can get you rejected!

Making a distinction between a problem that is too hard for the person to solve, and a person who has a bad attitude about solving their problem is a challenge. It's hard for both sides to communicate well enough to figure this out. Often a huge amount of information has to be exchanged.

The default assumption seems to be that a person with a problem should talk to a bunch of friends about it to see if anyone has ideas. If you count up the number of hours it actually takes to discuss dozens of suggestions in detail multiplied by dozens of people, it's not pretty. For many people who are already burdened by a serious problem, that sort of time investment just is not viable. In some cases the entire problem is insufficient time, so it can be unfair to demand for them to do this.

In the event that potential helpers are not convinced the problem is real, or aren't convinced to take the actions that would actually work, the person in need of help could easily waste 100 hours or more with nothing to show for it. This will cause them to pass up other opportunities and possibly make their situation far worse due to things like opportunity costs and burnout.

Solution: well-informed advocates.

For this reason, people who are experiencing a problem need an advocate. The advocate can take on the burden of evaluating solution ideas and advocating in favor of a particular solution.

Given that it often requires a huge amount of information to predict which solution ideas will work and which solution ideas will fail, it is probably the case that an advocate needs to be well-informed about the type of problem involved, or at least knows what it is like to go through some sort of difficult time due to past experience.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 29 January 2018 08:59:50PM *  7 points [-]

Another framing of that solution: EA needs a full time counselor who works with EAs gratis. I expect that paying the salary of such a person would be +ROI.

Comment author: BenMillwood  (EA Profile) 09 February 2018 04:40:45PM 6 points [-]

I would be interested in funding this.