Comment author: concerned_ 12 March 2017 02:02:28AM *  4 points [-]

I mostly agree with you. It honestly does worry me that the mainstream EA movement has no qualms about associating with FRI, whose values, I would wager, conflict with the those of the majority of humankind. This is one of the reasons I have drifted away from identifying with EA lately.

Self-styled “effective altruists” try to pass themselves off as benevolent, but the reality is that they themselves are one of the biggest threats to the world by promoting terrorism and anti-spirituality under the cloak of altruism.

It's a stretch to say FRI directly promotes terrorism; they make it clear on their website that they oppose violence and encourage cooperation with other (non-NU) value systems. The end result of their advocacy, however, may be less idealistic than they anticipate. (It's not too hard to imagine a negative utilitarian Kaczynski, if their movement gains traction. I think there's even a page on the FRI website where they mention that as a possible risk of advocating for suffering-focused ethics.)

I don't know what you mean by "anti-spirituality".

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 15 March 2017 02:24:17AM -2 points [-]

They encourage cooperation with other value systems to further their apocalyptic goals, but mostly to prevent others from opposing them. That is different from tempering "strong NU" with other value systems to arrive at more moderate conclusions.

LOOOOL about your optimism of people not following FRI's advocacy as purely as they want! Lets hope so, eh?

Comment author: inconvenient 11 March 2017 10:43:22PM 1 point [-]

If it was the case that FRI was accurately characterized here, then do we know of other EA orgs that would promote mass termination of life? If not, then it it is a necessary example, plain and simple.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 15 March 2017 02:17:01AM 2 points [-]

It's the only negative utilitarianism promoting group I know of. Does anyone know of others (affiliated with EA or not)?

Comment author: concerned_ 12 March 2017 02:02:28AM *  4 points [-]

I mostly agree with you. It honestly does worry me that the mainstream EA movement has no qualms about associating with FRI, whose values, I would wager, conflict with the those of the majority of humankind. This is one of the reasons I have drifted away from identifying with EA lately.

Self-styled “effective altruists” try to pass themselves off as benevolent, but the reality is that they themselves are one of the biggest threats to the world by promoting terrorism and anti-spirituality under the cloak of altruism.

It's a stretch to say FRI directly promotes terrorism; they make it clear on their website that they oppose violence and encourage cooperation with other (non-NU) value systems. The end result of their advocacy, however, may be less idealistic than they anticipate. (It's not too hard to imagine a negative utilitarian Kaczynski, if their movement gains traction. I think there's even a page on the FRI website where they mention that as a possible risk of advocating for suffering-focused ethics.)

I don't know what you mean by "anti-spirituality".

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 15 March 2017 02:03:18AM -1 points [-]

I know they don't actually come out and recommend terrorism publicly... but they sure go as far as they can to entice terrorism without being prosecuted by the government as a terrorist organization. Of course, if they were explicit, they'd immediately be shut down and jailed by authorities.

I promise you this – all those who endorse this mass termination of life ideology are going to pay a price. Whether by police action or public scrutiny, they will be forced to publicly abandon their position at some point. I implore them to do it now, on their volition. No one will believe them if they conveniently change their minds about no-rules negative utilitarianism after facing public scrutiny or the law. Now is the time. I warned CEA about this years ago, yet they still promote FRI.

I actually respect austere population-control to protect quality of life, even through seemingly drastic means such as forced sterilization (in extreme scenarios only, of course). However, atheists don't believe in any divine laws such as the sin of killing, are thus not bound by any rules. The type of negative utilitarianism popular in EA is definitely a brutal no-rules, mass killing-is-okay type. It is important to remember, also, that not everyone has good mental health. Some people have severe schizophrenia and could start a forest fire or kill many people to “prevent suffering” without thinking through all of the negative aspects of doing this. I think that the Future of Humanity Institute should add negative utilitarian atheism to their list of existential risks.

Anti-spirituality: Doesn't have anything to do with NU or FRI, I probably should have left it out of my comment. It just means that many EAs use EA as a means to promote atheism/atheists. Considering about 95% of the world's population are believers, they may have an issue with this aspect of the movement.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 11 March 2017 03:24:00PM *  5 points [-]

Also, I am somewhat concerned that this comment has been downvoted so much. It's the only really substantive criticism of the article (admittedly it isn't great), and it is at -3, right at the bottom.

Near the top are several comments at +5 or something that are effectively just applause.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 15 March 2017 01:54:55AM 0 points [-]

LOL. Typical of my comments. Gets almost no upvotes but I never receive any sensible counterarguments! People use the forum vote system to persuade (by social proof) without having a valid argument. I have yet to vote a comment (up or down) because I think people should think for themselves.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 10 March 2017 05:44:00AM -1 points [-]

Those guiding principles are good. However, I wished you would include one that was against doing massive harm to the world. CEA endorses the “Foundational Research Institute,” a pseudo-think tank that promotes dangerous ideas of mass-termination of human and non-human life, not excluding extinction. By promoting this organization, CEA is promoting human, animal, and environmental terrorism on the grandest scale. Self-styled “effective altruists” try to pass themselves off as benevolent, but the reality is that they themselves are one of the biggest threats to the world by promoting terrorism and anti-spirituality under the cloak of altruism.

Comment author: Lee_Sharkey 03 February 2017 01:20:09AM *  2 points [-]

Hi Austen,

Thanks for all your interest!

I would have to disagree on your point about corporate influence. Pharma has been implicated heavily in the current opioid epidemic in the States and elsewhere. See the John Oliver expose for a light introduction (link above). In this area, if anything, there is even more reason to be wary of pharma influence because the product is so addictive when misused. Pharma does do some positive work - I'm aware of a BMS-funded training hospice in Romania (Casa Sperantei). I've only heard good things about it.

You've hit on an accepted strategy for promoting pain relief access/palliative care. One only knows one has succeeded in making a MoH care about the area when it does something about it, such as developing a policy. The 'public health approach' to increasing access to pain relief/palliative care, supported by WHO, recognizes policy as the foundation on which other progress can be built. Without it, success in other areas of the approach (namely medicine availability, education, and implementation) is much less likely. Kathy Foley and colleagues introduce the public health approach here http://www.jpsmjournal.com/article/S0885-3924(07)00122-4/pdf

Regarding tractability:

The issue is likely to be more tractable in some countries than in others, and so it's hard for me to give anything but a range.

I'm adding retrospective justification for my choice of low-moderate tractability here, but compare this cause to similar ones assessed by 80k. The scores given to them according to their scoring matrix are: Smoking in the Developing World - 3/6; Health in poor countries - 5/6; Land Use Reform - 3/6;

(Where 3 is "Some possible ways to make progress, with significant controversy; Significant uncertainty about how to approach, solution at least a decade off; many relevant people don’t care, or some supportive but significant opposition from status quo.")

Judging by the rest of the scoring matrix I think a range of 2 - 3.5 in most countries is appropriate, which roughly correlates to low-moderate in my book.

So I think I would stand by my choice of low-moderate. I probably a proclivity for pessimism so perhaps I'm not being generous enough about its solvability here. The problem may be highly tractable in some countries but I feel that to recognise it in the range would misrepresent the issue. As for Wisconsin, I would hesitate to proclaim its effectiveness before more specific analysis. So even if they only spend 15% of their time on it, that may not mean much in terms of tractability or neglectedness. It does seem promising though.

Other funding: There are reasons other than politics that PEPFAR may not have chose to fund palliative care measures. Preventive measures may just be way more cost effective in the long run. I haven't looked closely into it.

An area where palliative care is of growing interest is in multidrug resistant TB.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 03 February 2017 06:01:15PM 1 point [-]

I'm a little confused as to why you are trying to promote a cause that you think is low priority and financially inefficient. Anyhow, I don't find your anti-corporate stance convincing. Lack of corporate involvement (ie. to distribute analgesics) is the missing link preventing some countries from having functional palliative care in some countries according to Dr. Foley. It's important to work with all stakeholders for progress in any space. The affordable anti-retroviral movement made progress by working with pharma. The risks of working with industry in the public's interest can be minimized with appropriate controls.

Access to properly regulated mobile phone, internet, and financial services have greatly helped the poor and require corporate involvement. Unfortunately, they are underutilized because SJW's like to maintain their purity and reject corporate involvement. I hope your palliative care movement doesn't suffer from the same self-defeating ideology.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 02 February 2017 11:17:13PM 2 points [-]

One good thing about this space is that, unlike so much other policy work, access to pain relief doesn't have corporations interfering by paying off government, etc. If anything, corporations would stand to gain by increasing access to pharmaceuticals. So much other policy advocacy is stifled by corporate interference, so palliative care has a huge advantage in that regard. Would it be possible for advocates to work with pharma corporations to lobby for increased access? I know that sometimes governments have good regulations in place but can't find corporations willing to supply/distribute the country with the meds, which I find baffling.

Do you think that an effective strategy for pain relief would be to first convince a Ministry of Health of the importance of palliative care? Rather than putting drugs as the forefront of advocacy, perhaps getting government to agree to the principle of palliative care and pain control first would be more productive because once they agree to that, it is a given that narcotics are necessary.

Increasing pain relief is a notable cause in so many ways. It is a major issue in moderate income countries such as in former Soviet nations. Africa may be the worst, but pain relief restriction is by no means limited to the poorest regions of the world. Just shows that the best altruistic opportunities aren't always in the poorest countries. I would think that the more developed countries would be a priority target for advocacy because they would actually have functional health care systems that would permit implementation of increased palliative care.

From what I've studied so far, I don't see how you can say that increased analgesic access is low-medium in neglectedness and tractability. Dr. Kathleen Foley says that University of Wisconsin's fellows only spend 15% of their time on this and usually make progress in their respective countries. If true, that demonstrates that this issue is severely neglected and tractable with long-term pay-offs, at least in some countries.

Is it possible for existing major global health initiatives to lead this cause? PEPFAR is well-funded and pain relief is part of AIDS treatment. I know you mentioned them, but perhaps they haven't put an appropriate portion of their funding towards this area for political reasons.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 01 February 2017 05:22:02PM 7 points [-]

Thank you, Lee, for this eye-opening and thorough introduction to the issue of lack of access to analgesics. I can't believe the scale of the problem! With the immense scale and striking neglectedness of the problem, and the potential for leaps in gains with changes to state/national policies, I'm sure it deserves a high priority for changemakers.

Causes like this are why I've always thought that effective altruism is just as important to be taken up in poor countries as much as rich ones – internal changemakers are invaluable here, as you've stated. University of Wisconsin's fellowship program does look promising. I'm sure they would accept external money if there was enough interest. Good luck with this important cause, Lee! Don't let any close-minded person tell you increasing access to analgesics isn't a suitable cause for EA's because it's not easily quantifiable.

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 06 January 2017 08:01:49PM 0 points [-]

I appreciate you posting on this forum, carneades. Your take on international development is in line with economic principles and what I've learned from people from Africa and India. EA badly needs this type of debate. What I am not hearing from you or others who take your point of view, however, is solutions. While your general criticisms of international aid are valid, what are the solutions? How do we help people in poor countries to develop and be more independent? There are charities like One Acre Fund that seem to only have a positive impact because increasing self-sufficiency. Should poverty philanthrobucks focus on those? What specific charities or interventions would you recommend?

Comment author: Austen_Forrester 10 October 2016 06:37:56PM *  1 point [-]

I've always thought the same as you, Ian. Great point about foundations, BTW. Very few people are willing to only give to the highest EV charity across all causes and countries, therefore they might as well give as effectively as possible within whatever criteria they have (ie. domestic, homeless). The only argument to the contrary is that there is a counterfactual if the all-or-nothing purist form of EA is broken and people donate to top domain-specific charities that would have given to the best cause neutral charity. I doubt there is much of a counterfactual because the EA community can still promote cause neutral charities while passively recommending domain-specific charities on the internet. It can even be a baby step on the way to practicing a more strict EA – people who wouldn't consider neutrality get used to the idea of effectiveness within their favourite domain. After having accepted the effectiveness doctrine, they start to open up to cause neutrality, increasing donation size, etc.

While it is good to have top domain-specific charities and interventions suggestions available for those who seek them, there remains 2 questions in my mind: 1) whether they should be branded as “effective altruism” even if they are in a low-potential cause, and 2) how much EA outreach and research should focus on them.

Ideally, those within the domain would find and promote the top charities in the domain themselves so there is no counterfactual from the EA community doing it. I wouldn't want the limited resources within EA going to low-medium potential domain-specific research and promotion, however, perhaps EA leaders could incite those within the domain to do it themselves (particularly foundations, as you mentioned). That seems like it could be quite high impact. Another point is that perhaps domain-specific discussion will bring in new people to EA that otherwise aren't interested. These new people could then promote effectiveness within their preferred domains. I think this is very plausible.

Regarding the responses about it being more impactful to persuade someone to give slightly more to a high impact cause neutral charity than significantly more to a domain-specific one, I think that depends on the situation. For a person in Europe, for instance, I would think that it would be more impactful to put effort into persuading them to give to a top overall charity than the best charity their favourite personal cause. However, for people in poor countries, like India, I think outreach would have the greatest impact by persuading them to give to the most effective Indian charities. I find that people from poor countries are primarily concerned about the poverty and problems in their home country.

View more: Next