Comment author: adamaero  (EA Profile) 05 February 2018 01:42:31AM 1 point [-]

Charity Navigator already exists. GuideStar too. If people would just use those, it would be better than something like 2/3 of Americans not looking into the causes they support. If an American is so set on rich country charities, just mentioning or encouraging those tools would be enough.

An American charity evaluator would have to compete with the charity ranking sites too. I don't think it would get off the ground very easily.

I also don't think it would be associated with Effective Altruism. Doesn't make sense if it's just based on location.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 07 February 2018 01:52:12AM *  2 points [-]

I support the spirit of this comment: use already existing resources, instead of creating new ones, and don't make the solution more complicated than it needs to be. That said, neither Charity Navigator nor GuideStar currently make much of an attempt to calculate the cost-effectiveness of the charities in their database. They are both moving in the direction of encouraging charities to self-report impact data, but I'm not aware of any plans to use the kinds of standardized metrics or outcome definitions that would be necessary for a cost-effectiveness calculation. So I actually do think there would be a lot of value in an independent analysis of cost-effectiveness within a US framework, even a back-of-the-envelope one.

Comment author: RobBensinger 07 February 2017 11:00:02PM 8 points [-]

Anonymous #32(e):

I'm generally worried about how little most people actually seem to change their minds, despite being in a community that nominally holds the pursuit of truth in such high esteem.

Looking at the EA Survey, the best determinant of what cause a person believes to be important is the one that they thought was important before they found EA and considered cause prioritization.

There are also really strong founder effects in regional EA groups. That is, locals of one area generally seem to converge on one or two causes or approaches being best. Moreover, they often converge not because they moved there to be with those people, but because they 'became' EAs there.

Excepting a handful of people who have switched cause areas, it seems like EA as a brand serves more to justify what one is already doing and optimize within one's comfort zone in it, as opposed to actually changing minds.

To fix this, I'd want to lower the barriers to changing one's mind by, e.g., translating the arguments for one cause to the culture of a group often associated with another cause, and encouraging thought leaders and community leaders to be more open about the ways in which they are uncertain about their views so that others are comfortable following suit.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 08 February 2017 02:37:23PM 4 points [-]

This is a great point. In addition to considering "how can we make it easier to get people to change their minds," I think we should also be asking, "is there good that can still be accomplished even when people are not willing to change their minds?" Sometimes social engineering is most effective when it works around people's biases and weaknesses rather than trying to attack them head on.

Comment author: RobBensinger 07 February 2017 10:58:05PM 8 points [-]

Anonymous #32(b):

The high-value people from the early days of effective altruism are disengaging, and the high-value people who might join are not engaging. There are people who were once quite crucial to the development of EA 'fundamentals' who have since parted ways, and have done so because they are disenchanted with the direction in which they see us heading.

More concretely, I've heard many reports to the effect: 'EA doesn't seem to be the place where the most novel/talented/influential people are gravitating, because there aren't community quality controls.' While inclusivity is really important in most circumstances, it has a downside risk here that we seem to be experiencing. I believe we are likely to lose the interest and enthusiasm of those who are most valuable to our pursuits, because they don't feel like they are around peers, and/or because they don't feel that they are likely to be socially rewarded for their extreme dedication or thoughtfulness.

I think that the community's dip in quality comes in part from the fact that you can get most of the community benefits without being a community benefactor -- e.g. invitations to parties and likes on Facebook. At the same time, one incurs social costs for being more tireless and selfless (e.g., skipping parties to work), for being more willing to express controversial views (e.g., views that conflict with clan norms), or for being more willing to do important but low-status jobs (e.g., office manager, assistant). There's a lot that we'd need to do in order to change this, but as a first step we should be more attentive to the fact that this is happening.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 08 February 2017 02:31:43PM 4 points [-]

I upvoted this mostly because it was new information to me, but I have the same questions as Richard.

Comment author: Daniel_Eth 08 February 2017 07:35:29AM 9 points [-]

This. As a meat-eating EA who personally does think animal suffering is a big deal, I've found the attitude from some animal rights EAs to be quite annoying. I personally believe that the diet I eat is A) healthier than if I was vegan and B) allows me to be more focussed and productive than if I was vegan, allowing me to do more good overall. I'm more than happy to debate that with anyone who disagrees (and most EAs who are vegan are civil and respect this view), but I have encountered some EAs who refuse to believe that there's any possibility of either A) or B) being true, which feels quite dismissive.

Contrast that attitude to what happened recently at a Los Angeles EA meetup where we went for dinner. Before ordering, I asked around if anyone was vegan since if there was anyone who was, I didn't want to eat meat in front of them and offend them. The person next to me said he was vegan, but that if I wanted meat I should order it since "we're all adults and we want the community to be as inclusive as it can." I decided to get a vegan dish anyway, but having him say that made me feel more welcome.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 08 February 2017 02:23:48PM 6 points [-]

For what it's worth and as an additional data point, I'm a meat eater and I didn't feel like this was a big problem at EA Global in 2016. For a gathering in which animal advocacy/veganism is so prevalent, I would have thought it really weird if the conference served meat anyway. The vegetarian food provided was delicious, and the one time I went out to dinner with a group and ordered meat, nobody got up in my face about it.

Comment author: RobBensinger 07 February 2017 10:37:28PM 4 points [-]

Anonymous #5:

At multiple EA events that I've been to, new people who were interested and expressed curiosity about what to do next were given no advice beyond 'donate money and help spread the message' -- even by prominent EA organizers. My advice to the EA community would be to stop focusing so much on movement-building until (a) EA's epistemics have improved, and (b) EAs have much more developed and solid views (if not an outright consensus) about the movement's goals and strategy.

To that end, I recommend clearly dividing 'cause-neutral EA' from 'cause-specific effectiveness'. The lack of a clear divide contributes to the dilution of what EA means. (Some recent proposals I've seen framed by people as 'EA' have included a non-profit art magazine and a subcommunity organized around fighting Peter Thiel.) If we had a notion of 'in this space/forum/organization, we consider the most effective thing to do given that one cares primarily about art' or 'given that one is focused on ending Alzheimer's, what is the most effective thing to do?', then people could spend more time seriously discussing those questions and less bickering over what counts as 'EA.'

The above is if we want a big-tent approach. I'm also fine with just cause-neutral evaluation and the current-seemingly-most-important-from-a-cause-neutral-standpoint causes being deemed 'EA' and all else clearly being not, no matter who that makes cranky.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 08 February 2017 02:11:46PM *  1 point [-]

I think I'm the one being called out with the reference to "a non-profit art magazine" being framed as EA-relevant, so I'll respond here. I endorse the commenter's thought that

If we had a notion of 'in this space/forum/organization, we consider the most effective thing to do given that one cares primarily about art' or 'given that one is focused on ending Alzheimer's, what is the most effective thing to do?', then people could spend more time seriously discussing those questions and less bickering over what counts as 'EA.'

If I'm understanding the proposal correctly, it's envisioning something like a reddit-style set of topic-specific subforums in which EA principles could be discussed as they relate to that topic. What I like about that solution is that it allows for the clarity of discussion boundaries that the commenter desires, but still includes discussions of cause-specific effectiveness within the broader umbrella of EA, which helps to facilitate cross-pollination of thinking across causes and from individual causes to the more global cause-neutral space.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 02 January 2017 06:23:00PM 3 points [-]

How often do people want to see Open Threads? Are they useful?

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 03 January 2017 05:02:09PM 2 points [-]

I would be happy to see them once every other month or so.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 03 January 2017 04:58:52PM 1 point [-]

Hi Amy, I submitted a few programming ideas for last year's event that weren't selected. I'd like to review and consider resubmitting them this year, but I don't think I have a record of them since I typed them directly into the form. Would there be a way for me to get access to those submissions?

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 30 December 2016 11:59:47PM 6 points [-]

In my ongoing and perhaps quixotic quest to bridge the worlds of EA and arts philanthropy, I have a blog post up at Stanford Social Innovation Review that gives effective altruism a shout-out. I also have a more detailed opinion piece on domain-specific EA coming out in the spring print edition of SSIR.

Comment author: HenryMaine 16 December 2016 09:23:50AM 0 points [-]

Trump's character: The press was in bed with the Clinton campaign, so I discount their claims about Trump very heavily. I am not citing Scott Adam's as a "source" on Trump's character, I am citing him for providing skepticism against the media and the Clinton campaign's portrayal of Trump.

As for Trump spreading unfounded rumors, like which ones? The press recently attacked him for claiming that illegal immigrants voted in the election.

However, illegal immigrants do vote in elections. Here's the abstract:

In spite of substantial public controversy, very little reliable data exists concerning the frequency with which non-citizen immigrants participate in United States elections. Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration. This study examines participation rates by non-citizens using a na­tionally representative sample that includes non-citizen immigrants. We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congres­sional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.

So it's not all at unreasonable for Trump to speculate that voter fraud gave Hillary the popular vote. The media discussion is highly distorted.

Bannon: I don’t agree with your section on Bannon because I don’t believe in social justice and I don’t believe in the concept of “racism.” Racism is merely a leftist term of abuse with an ever expanding definition. Tribalism and prejudice are real, but in many cases they are justified: human tribes really are different from each other, and every group has their own grievances. The concept of “racism” is that red tribe’s tribalism is evil, but blue tribe’s tribalism is good; attacking members of the red coalition based on ethnic attitudes is good, but attacking members of the the blue coalition on ethnic grounds is evil. Privileged white progressives use minorities as a shield. When the older concept of racism as prejudice wasn’t enough, progressives had to expand it to the ludicrous “privilege + power” definition, which bakes in a double standard that it’s impossible to be racist against certain groups. The word “racism” has been stretched so much that it should be abandoned; there is no “true” definition of racism to salvage.

It’s a mistake to engage in moral reasoning that takes such shifting and politicized moral weapons for granted, without inspecting them, and then reasons from these premises.

Authoritarianism: The original post I was responding to held democracy in such high-esteem that it advocated donating to a political party to “protect” it. However, why is democracy considered so great? Most smart people nowadays weren’t reasoned into this belief. They believe it because they were educated with a few propagandistic platitudes.They cannot justify democracy without the concept of “rights,” a meaningless concept that is inseparable from democracy. They are not familiar with any of the criticisms of democracy before 20th century propagandists defined it as the best thing since sliced bread (like Maine’s criticisms cited in my original post). They are not familiar with the history of democracy. They are not familiar with the history of monarchy, the most typical non-democratic form of human government, and they believe that any non-democratic government is like a dice roll for Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Jong-Il.

The downside risk is not greater for non-democratic government. It only looks that way if you take all your data-points from the 20th century.

Kim Jong-Il and Stalin were selected through communism. Of course you are going to get a bad leader that way. Hitler was selected through democracy, but the conditions of post-WWI Weimar Germany were unprecedented. Hitler was an expansionist populist, but Trump is an isolationist populist.

Angela Merkel and other EU leaders demonstrate the downside risk of democracy, by destroying their own countries by depressing their own people’s fertility in favor of foreign voters who commit elevated levels of crime and sexual violence. Virtually no historical autocrats did anything so crazy. The goal of historical rulers was to prevent their countries from getting overrun by hostile foreigners and their women raped en masse. It is only because of propaganda that we do not recognize what is obviously going on.

If the US recognized Kim Jong-Il as Emperor of North Korea, he would relax and become less oppressive over time. If the US stopped trying to undermine Putin, then he would be a lot nicer, because he would no longer have to fear the US trying to rig elections and using democracy to install their own puppet, like they’ve done in so many other “democratic” countries. It is not authority that inherently makes rulers evil, it is insecure authority. Being in a democracy, being under communism, or being at war tend to make rulers insecure. In the case of democracy or communism, they can be replaced as “the people’s” chosen; in the case of war, they can be unseated by a foreign power.

So what does this mean for Trump? Well, he is a populist and he was selected through democracy, which are both bad. Luckily, Trump is not a communist or socialist, and the US is not threatened by a bigger foreign power. Trump may not be the president America wants, but he is the president America deserves: red tribe deserves him because they voted for him, and blue tribe deserves him because they tried to push globalist socialism too fast from inside their self-congratulatory media bubble.

I don't know about you, but I would not want to live in a regime like China where not only my speech but my very access to ideas and facts is strongly limited (and please don't come back with the absurd false equivalency that political correctness is akin to mass-scale state censorship).

There’s a small difference: in China, they are using a more technological approach, while in the West, they use a more ideological and social approach. In China, the state suppresses free speech explicitly. In the US, the state suppresses free speech by punishing employers of thought criminals to make them unhireable if they step too far outside the Overton Window.

Free speech causes a problem in democracies, because it means that any new coalition can develop to challenge the current coalition. This makes the reigning coalition insecure, so it lashes out with social pressure and tries to crush individuals who join a challenger coalition. This is our current situation of culture wars: culture wars are inherent in democracy.

I don’t expect this response to convince you, and in fact you probably shouldn’t be convinced by something this short that clashes with your current worldview, but my goal is to show that alternative perspectives are possible. Those who want a more sophisticated understanding of democracy and its alternatives can start with this essay, or ask me for recommendations.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 17 December 2016 02:21:35AM 1 point [-]

I think I have one more response left in me and then I'm going to call it quits.

Regarding Trump's character: you are still not fully engaging here. You didn't respond at all to my point that we can see him bullying private citizens on Twitter knowing full well that his supporters will rain down harassment on anyone he calls out there. As far as unfounded rumors go, the voting thing is just one of many, many examples, but let's talk about that. I appreciate that you provided evidence for your case, but you failed to mention that that evidence is disputed in what I find to be a convincing rebuttal by Harvard researchers. Sure, the claim that zero undocumented immigrants vote in elections is probably untrue, and I would not be surprised to learn that it happens once in a while. But millions of votes? The backup for that claim is pure speculation and hearsay. I stand by the characterization of that rumor as unfounded.

More to the point, I have counted two instances now in this thread where you have provided sources to back up factual claims you've made that have later turned out to be misleading or downright false. (The other example being the story about settling 1000 refugees on a small island when it turned out that there were just a couple dozen). Say what you want about outlets like the New York Times, but they issue corrections when they get facts wrong, and even employ a public editor to call them out when they screw up. When has Breitbart ever issued a correction for anything? I think that should be a red flag for you to reconsider the relative reliability of the mainstream media vs. your preferred sources. Perhaps you don't know anyone who works in mainstream media. I do, and they are honest people who believe strongly in journalistic ethics and integrity. I understand you have a worldview that is not well represented in those spaces and I support a reasonable degree of skepticism about any source, but when you find your views challenged there you should apply some of that skepticism to yourself as well. That's what we all do.

Regarding authoritarianism, if the best example you can come up with for a worst-case scenario in a democracy is seriously Angela Merkel, I think that speaks for itself. (Agreed that Hitler came to power in a democracy, but it was an extremely compromised democracy and the fact that he immediately moved Germany toward dictatorship supports rather than undermines my point.) The idea of Merkel "destroying her own country" seems, uh, inconsistent with a nation that is the 16th-happiest in the world.

Regarding social ostracization of "thought criminals," that is going to happen in any society, democratic or not. If it's going to happen, I'd prefer that the people who are ostracized are those who cause the most harm to others by their words and actions. It seems from your response that you don't believe in white privilege. I hope you can see that if one accepts white privilege as a reality, than the progressive double standard on racism makes sense and is justified. So it then becomes an empirical question of whether white privilege exists, for which I think there is ample evidence that it does.

So you are correct, I'm not convinced. I do appreciate you being realistic about that, and the time you've put in to explain your views. It seems we will continue to disagree.

Happy holidays (or, if you prefer, Merry Christmas) to you.

Comment author: IanDavidMoss 11 December 2016 02:28:04PM 4 points [-]

Since most of the discussion here has focused on Europe, and I'm based in the US, I will address my comment to the US-specific aspects of your response. I am a little tight on time so I apologize in advance for my brevity.

Re: Trump's character I think your rebuttal of Haydn's point here is quite weak. The only source you cite for Trump's character actually being okay is the Collected Work of Scott Adams, a cartoonist who as far as I know has never actually met or spent time with Donald Trump. Adams makes a big deal in his posts about how he has studied persuasion and hypnosis, make claims like "facts don't matter," and appears to me upon reading some of his recent work to be a sophist of the first order. (E.g., in one post he strongly implies that Clinton supporters are silly to think that half the country is having a mass hallucination that Trump is a sane/effective leader; in another post he strongly implies that experts are having a mass hallucination about climate change.) I would not consider his opinion about Trump's character to be any more valuable than those of the thousands of others who have opined on it and come to a different conclusion. As to your point about the media distorting Trump's character, there are significant ways in which our view of Trump is unobstructed by third parties -- e.g., we are able to see exactly what he says in his Twitter feed, including his bullying of private citizens and spreading of unfounded rumors.

Re: Bannon While I agree that descriptions of Bannon as "literally a Nazi" and the like are inaccurate, I do not think it's unfair to hold him accountable for views expressed in articles published by a website of which he was CEO. Similarly to critiques of Trump's candidacy in general, the problem is not that Bannon has expressed overtly bigoted views himself, the problem is that he had no problem helping to foster an environment in which bigotry was condoned, which in turn perpetuates systemic racism. This also relates to your point about policing the term "white nationalism." In general, the pattern that I see among conservative/liberatrian commenters is one in which racism is defined as bigotry; racism is an essential characteristic of a human being, and is an individual flaw rather than a systemic reality; and if one holds a single non-racist view that disproves any claims of racism (e.g., Trump is not racist because he picked Ben Carson for a cabinet post). By contrast, the sense in which people in the social justice movement use racism is as follows: racism is defined as prejudice + power (so in that sense it is specific to white people so long as white privilege is the norm, and distinct from bigotry which can be exhibited by people of any race); racism is characteristic of systems, institutional structures, and specific actions rather than people; people (progressives included) can be complicit in racism even if they do not have a prejudiced bone in their body. These are really important distinctions that affect the way in which language is used and understood, and I would advise against advocating for policing language unless you are willing to grapple with this more complex view of race relations.

Re: authoritarianism This seems addressed largely to a straw man. I don't think many people seriously believe that democracy equals utopia. The quote I most often hear from my liberal friends about democracy is that it's "the worst system of government, except for all the others." I also would agree with the idea that in some circumstances an authoritarian government could be more stable and better for collective wellbeing in the short term than a democracy, especially a compromised and/or divided one. The problem with authoritarian governments is that the downside risk from bad leaders is strongly magnified compared to the downside risk from democracies. The nightmare scenario here is not a Singapore but a North Korea. Furthermore, there's a big difference in risk between some tiny state being taken over by a dictator and the world's richest and most militarily powerful country moving in an authoritarian direction. I take your point that the risks to nuclear war may be overstated in the very short term, but still this does not bode well for a world in which minority rights are protected and truth-telling is valued and incentivized. I don't know about you, but I would not want to live in a regime like China where not only my speech but my very access to ideas and facts is strongly limited (and please don't come back with the absurd false equivalency that political correctness is akin to mass-scale state censorship).

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