MichaelPlant comments on Empirical data on value drift - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Joey 24 April 2018 04:41:24PM 23 points [-]

So I want to be pretty careful about going into details, but I can mix some stories together to make a plausible sounding story based on what I have heard. Please keep in mind this story is a fiction based off a composite of case studies I’ve witnessed, not a real example of any particular person.

Say Alice is an EA. She learns about it in his first year of college. She starts by attending an EA event or two and eventually ends up being a member of his university chapter and pretty heavily reading the EA forum. She takes the GWWC pledge and a year later she takes a summer internship at an EA organization. During this time she identifies strongly with the EA movement and considers it one of her top priorities. Sadly, as Alice is away at her internship her chapter suffers and when she gets back she hits a particularly rough year of school and due to long term concerns, she prioritizes school over setting the chapter back up, mainly thinking about her impact. The silver lining is at the end of this rough year she starts a relationship. The person is smart and well suited, but does not share her charitable interest. Over time she stops reading the EA content she used to and the chapter never gets started again. After her degree ends she takes a job in consulting that she says will give her career capital, but she has a sense her heart is not as into EA as she once was. She knows a big factor is her boyfriend’s family would approve of a more normal job than a charity focused one, plus she is confident she can donate and have some impact that way. Her first few paychecks she rationalizes as needing to move out and get established. The next few to build up a safe 6 month runway. The donations never happen. There's always some reason or another to put it off, and EA seems so low on the priorities list now, just a thing she did in college, like playing a sport. Alice ends up donating a fairly small amount to effective charities (a little over 1%). Her involvement was at its peak when she was in college and she knows her college self would be disappointed. Each choice made sense at the time. Many of them even follow traditional EA advice, but the endline result is Alice does not really feel she is an EA anymore. She has many other stronger identities. In this story, with different recommendations from the EA movement and different choices from Alice, she could have ended up doing earning to give and donating a large percentage long term or working with an EA org long term, but instead she “value drifted”.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 24 April 2018 06:33:40PM 3 points [-]

Ah, that's great. Thanks very much for that. I think "dating a non-EA" is a particularly dangerous(/negative impact?) phenomenon we should probably be talking about more. I also know someone, A, whose non-EA-inclined partner, B, was really unhappy that A wasn't aiming to get a high-paying professional job and it really wrenched A from focusing on trying do the most useful stuff. Part of the problem was B's family wanted B's partner to be dating a high earner.

Comment author: Halstead 24 April 2018 06:46:46PM 12 points [-]

This comment comes across as a tad cult-y.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 24 April 2018 07:28:02PM 6 points [-]

I did think that while writing it, and it worried me too. Despite that, the thought doesn't strike me as totally stupid. If we think it's reasonable to talk about commitment devices in general, it seems one we ought to talk about in particular in one's choice of partner. If you want to do X, finding someone that supports you to towards you goal of achieving X seems rather helpful, whereas finding a partner that will discourage you from achieving X seems unhelpful. Nevertheless, I accept one of the obvious warning signs of being in a cult is the cult leaders tell you to date only people inside the cult lest you get 'corrupted'...

Comment author: itaibn 25 April 2018 12:07:57AM 7 points [-]

A particular word choice that put me at unease is calling "dating a non-EA" "dangerous" without qualifying this word properly. It is more precise to say that something is "good" or "bad" for a particular purpose than to just call it "good" or "bad"; just the same with "dangerous". If you call something "dangerous" without qualification or other context, this leaves an implicit assumption that the underlying purpose is universal and unquestioned, or almost so, in the community you're speaking to. In many cases it's fine to assume EA values in these sorts of statements -- this is an EA forum, after all. Doing so for statements about value drift appears to support the norm that people here should want to stay with EA values forever, a norm which I oppose.

Comment author: Halstead 24 April 2018 07:35:08PM 2 points [-]

haha yeah that was my take. I think the best norm to propagate is "go out with whoever makes you happy"

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 30 April 2018 11:24:54PM 4 points [-]

I think that there should be no norm here and we should simply consider the fact that dating a non-EA may cause a value drift before making decisions. Being altruistic sometimes means making sacrifices to your happiness. If having less money, less time and no children can be amongst the possible sacrifices, I see no reason why limiting the set of possible romantic partners could not be one of possible sacrifices as well. People are diverse. Maybe someone would rather donate less money but abstain from dating non-EAs, or even abstain from dating at all. One good piece of writing related to the subject is http://briantomasik.com/personal-thoughts-on-romance/

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 01 May 2018 12:09:14AM *  3 points [-]

Males having a “dating EAs only” rule is also dangerous (for the health of the community) when 70% of the community identifies as male and only 26% as female. It’d promote unhealthy competition. What is more, communities are not that big in many of the cities which for many people would make the choice very limited. Especially since we should probably avoid flirting with newcomers because that might scare them away.

Maybe the partner doesn't have to be an EA to prevent the value drift, maybe the important thing is that the partner is supportive of EA-type sacrifices. I'll put this as a requirement in my online dating profiles. I think that people who are altruistic (but not necessarily EAs) are especially likely to be supportive.

Comment author: Cornelius  (EA Profile) 17 August 2018 09:37:07PM *  0 points [-]

To flip this one on its head: I think counter-factually for most EAs it could actually be "better" for the world at large to date non-EAs because of the whole drastic increase of impact that can typically be expected if you convince your lover of EA - which to me on balance seems more likely than value drift from dating a non-EA if you are in fact a committed EA. However, I think if you have long-term relationships exceeding 2 years then value drift becomes far more of an issue:

  • < 2 year relationship. Value drift potential = low. Convert lover to EA potential = very high
  • > 2 year relationship. Value drift potential = medium. Convert lover to EA potential = very low if it didn't happen in the first 2 years
  • > 5 year relationship. Value drift potential = high. Convert lover to EA potential = extremely low if it didn't happen in the first 5 years

Suffice to say my current girlfriend is now much more EA-minded and I have received messages from my ex that she eats less meat still even after she stopped dating me (I'll take her word for it). I know my behaviour has been very strongly impacted by the people I've dated so there's no reason to assume vice versa doesn't happen.

Fun-fact: I use this as an excuse to argue with my girlfriend that clearly I should be dating many many girls short-term for obvious EA-reasons.