Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 25 November 2017 11:02:23AM *  2 points [-]

This may be a bit late, but: I'd like to see a bit more explanation/justification of why the particular grants were chosen, and how you decided how much to fund - especially when some of the amounts are pretty big, and there's a lot of variation among the grants. e.g. £60,000 to revamp LessWrong sounds like a really large amount to me, and I'm struggling to imagine what that's being spent on.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 25 November 2017 10:52:54AM 1 point [-]

Did SlateStarCodex even exist before 2009? I'm sceptical - the post archives only go back to 2013: http://slatestarcodex.com/archives/. Maybe not a big deal but does suggest at least some of your sample were just choosing options randomly/dishonestly.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 08 February 2017 10:03:25PM *  8 points [-]

I have spoken with two people in the community who felt they didn't have anyone to turn to who would not throw rationalist type techniques at them when they were experiencing mental health problems. The fix it attitude is fairly toxic for many common situations.

If I could wave a magic wand it would be for everyone to gain the knowledge that learning and implementing new analytical techniques cost spoons, and when a person is bleeding spoons in front of you you need a different strategy.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 10 February 2017 10:11:01AM 6 points [-]

If I could wave a magic wand it would be for everyone to gain the knowledge that learning and implementing new analytical techniques cost spoons, and when a person is bleeding spoons in front of you you need a different strategy.

I strongly agree with this, and I hadn't heard anyone articulate it quite this explicitly - thank you. I also like the idea of there being more focus on helping EAs with mental health problems or life struggles where the advice isn't always "use this CFAR technique."

(I think CFAR are great and a lot of their techniques are really useful. But I've also spent a bunch of time feeling bad the fact that I don't seem able to learn and implement these techniques in the way many other people seem to, and it's taken me a long time to realise that trying to 'figure out' how to fix my problems in a very analytical way is very often not what I need.)

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 09 February 2017 09:31:42AM 9 points [-]

Thanks for writing this Roxanne, I agree that this is a risk - and I've also cringed sometimes when I've heard EAs say they "don't care" about certain things. I think it's good to highlight this as a thing we should be wary of.

It reminds me a bit of how in academia people often say, "I'm interested in x", where x is some very specific, niche subfield, implying that they're not interested in anything else - whereas what they really mean is, "x is the focus of my research." I've found myself saying this wrt my own research, and then often caveating, "actually, I'm interested in a tonne of wider stuff, this is just what I'm thinking about at the moment!" So I'd like it if the norm in EA were more towards saying things like, "I'm currently focusing on/working on/thinking about x" rather than, "I care about x"

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 18 May 2015 05:01:00PM *  4 points [-]

I can sympathize with this perspective, but if you are actually on the fence regarding animal welfare concerns, it seems like it would be a shame if you ended up eating eggs because you didn't want to give up milk! (e.g. if you actually caved because of cheese/butter).

If you haven't tried just avoiding eggs, it seems worth at least trying.

If the only reason it's psychologically harder is that "vegan" is a more familiar concept, then you will also be doing significant auxiliary good by giving more currency to lacto-vegetarianism. I expect more people would adopt this than would adopt veganism (if the two concepts had equal currency), and it seems basically equally morally good.

I don't understand the "completely trivial difference" line. How do you think it compares to the quality of life lost by eating somewhat cheaper food? For me, the cheaper food is much more cost-effective, in terms of world-bettering per unit of foregone joy.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 18 May 2015 07:42:08PM 1 point [-]

If you haven't tried just avoiding eggs, it seems worth at least trying.

Yeah, that seems right!

I don't understand the "completely trivial difference" line. How do you think it compares to the quality of life lost by eating somewhat cheaper food? For me, the cheaper food is much more cost-effective, in terms of world-bettering per unit of foregone joy.

I think this is probably just a personal thing - for me I think eating somewhat cheaper food would be worse in terms of enjoyment than cutting out dairy. The reason I say it's a basically trivial difference is that, while I enjoy dairy products, I don't think I enjoy them more than I enjoy various other foods - they're just another thing that I enjoy. So given that I can basically replace all the non-vegan meals I would normally have with vegan meals that I like as much (which requires some planning, of course), then I don't think there will be much, if any, difference in my enjoyment of food over time. I also think that even a very small difference in the pleasure I get from eating dairy vs vegan food would be trivial in terms of my happiness/enjoyment over my life as a whole, or even any day as a whole - I don't think I'd ever look back on a day and think "Oh, my enjoyment of that day would have been so much greater if I'd eaten cheese." I enjoy food, but it's not that big a deal relative to a lot of other more important things.

In response to Should I be vegan?
Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 17 May 2015 04:51:37PM 6 points [-]

Regarding willpower: If you maintain a vegan diet for a few months, it will probably stop requiring willpower since you will stop thinking of animal products as an option that you have available. This has been my experience and the experience of lots of other vegans, although it's probably not universal.

Does it take willpower for you to be vegetarian? If not, then it probably won't take willpower for you to be vegan either once you get used to it. (It will certainly still take willpower while you're still transitioning.)

Regarding time: In some ways veganism takes more time because sometimes you have to look harder to find products you can eat, but it some ways it takes less time because decisions are easier when you have fewer options. For me personally it's probably about a wash. (The biggest time loss is talking about it on the internet a lot.)

I think Katja's argument about willpower proves too much, because it says you should not do anything that requires time/willpower that you could be expending on EA activities. It seems to imply that you should stop exercising and start eating unhealthy food whenever you want because that will leave you more time and willpower for more effective pursuits. The way people apply this argument to veganism but not to anything else looks suspiciously like motivated reasoning. (Although it's possible that people just tend to be more reflective when considering veganism but they don't put the same level of thought into most other decisions, so this argument doesn't come up.)

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 17 May 2015 06:18:00PM 2 points [-]

Regarding willpower: If you maintain a vegan diet for a few months, it will probably stop requiring willpower since you will stop thinking of animal products as an option that you have available. This has been my experience and the experience of lots of other vegans, although it's probably not universal.

Yeah, my experience previously has been that the willpower required mostly decreases over time - there was definitely a time a while ago when the thought of buying and eating eggs was kind of absurd to me. This was slightly counterbalanced by sometimes getting odd cravings for animal products, though. I think that if I put conscious effort into developing negative associations around animal products, though, I could probably end up in a situation where it took zero willpower. That would obviously take effort though.

Does it take willpower for you to be vegetarian? If not, then it probably won't take willpower for you to be vegan either once you get used to it.

No, being vegetarian takes zero willpower for me, but I was raised vegetarian, so I have hardly eaten any meat in my entire life, so I have very little desire to eat it - and even an aversive reaction to a lot of meat. (Which I'm very grateful to my parents for!)

In response to Should I be vegan?
Comment author: rossaokod  (EA Profile) 17 May 2015 01:35:25PM 8 points [-]

This is really excellent Jess - thanks for writing it up! I think I have been thinking about things in a very similar way, and strongly identify with pretty much everything you say!

I started trying out a transition to being (mostly) vegan in September last year, as I thought a move to being 100% vegan straight away would be very difficult (I think most of the costs are 'transition' costs and decrease as you form new habits and learn more about stuff to buy). I have been surprised at how painless it has been, but have not yet tried being 100% vegan.

At the moment, I think about 85% of my meals are vegan (and the rest vegetarian) - I try to count the non-vegan ones each week. I think you need a clear rule to do this, and I have been using something very similar to what you suggest. I no longer buy animal products at the supermarket, so everything I eat or prepare at home is vegan. But if I am out, or at a seminar/event where there is free food provided and there is no vegan option, I eat vegetarian. I also allow vegetarian eating when I am travelling, or at other people's houses. Most weeks this leads to roughly 3/21 non-vegan meals, but obviously this is a lot higher if I am travelling.

The way I see this is getting from 85% to 100% is probably the most costly part for me (most inconvenience, most social cost) and I am getting the vast majority of the benefit with very little of the cost. I do feel uncomfortable with that 15% though. I think I will continue until September, and then reasses after a year, maybe getting closer to 100% with new rules.

In response to comment by rossaokod  (EA Profile) on Should I be vegan?
Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 17 May 2015 05:03:40PM 5 points [-]

I like the idea of counting non-vegan meals, that sounds great. Maybe I'll beemind it... then I'd have an incentive to keep it low, but I don't have to be absolute about it. Diana told me that whenever she eats something non-vegan she makes a donation to an animal welfare charity - I like that idea too.

The way I see this is getting from 85% to 100% is probably the most costly part for me (most inconvenience, most social cost) and I am getting the vast majority of the benefit with very little of the cost. I do feel uncomfortable with that 15% though. I think I will continue until September, and then reasses after a year, maybe getting closer to 100% with new rules.

Yeah, I think that's right. It's quite possible that the main downside of not going 100% vegan is just the discomfort that you end up feeling about it! (And that in particular this is larger than any actual consequences, especially if you're mostly eating dairy.)

In response to Should I be vegan?
Comment author: Vidur_Kapur  (EA Profile) 17 May 2015 03:47:05PM 6 points [-]

Very detailed!

I'm currently in between lacto-ovo vegetarianism and veganism in that I'm a lacto-vegetarian. This is only because I don't currently have a regular income (I'm still in high school), and attempting to replace dairy in particular has been quite an inconvenience.

So, my experience is that it is a lot less inconvenient to give up eggs than to give up dairy products, so perhaps you could try lacto-vegetarianism, but seeing as you are willing to go "95% vegan" and potentially "100% vegan", they're probably better in consequentialist terms overall.

In response to comment by Vidur_Kapur  (EA Profile) on Should I be vegan?
Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 17 May 2015 04:52:53PM 2 points [-]

Yeah, I think lacto-vegetarianism is probably 95% of the way in terms of impact on animal suffering anyway (or even more.) As I said above, for me the main reason for cutting out dairy too is that I think if I eat dairy I might be more likely to slip into eating eggs too down the line. But it's possible I could just protect against that by setting more solid rules in place etc.

In response to Should I be vegan?
Comment author: Paul_Christiano 17 May 2015 04:26:13PM 15 points [-]

Why lump milk and eggs together? I think that a cup of milk requires on the order of minutes of cow "suffering" (and an even smaller amount of calf suffering), and the lives of dairy cows don't seem especially bad. For perspective, a cow produces tens of thousands of dollars of milk in her life. I think it is very unlikely that the welfare of the cow is a big consideration compared to the cost of the milk. Also, cutting dairy is nutritionally/logistically non-trivial. Cutting eggs seems pretty easy.

The issue isn't just time/energy/willpower. It's making your life worse. There are other ways to make your life worse to make the world better, and you clearly shouldn't (and don't) do all of them. It seems worth picking the ones that get an efficient tradeoff. At the point where you are cutting cheese from your pasta, the tradeoff seems very unfavorable. Many other ways of saving money would be a much more effective tradeoff, as would working like an extra few seconds each day. That's probably true even if you don't spend the money on an effective thing---money is still an indicator that someone else making a sacrifice on your behalf, such that you have to give them money to make them whole.

I think that if EA's want to signal things, it should be being sensible and interesting rather than being eager to make sacrifices.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 17 May 2015 04:51:11PM 3 points [-]

Yeah, good point. I'm definitely a lot less concerned about eating dairy than I am eggs. The main reason for lumping them together is that I think I'd find it quite a bit easier psychologically to be "vegan" than to be someone who "doesn't eat eggs", and I think I'd be more likely to keep it up, but it's possible that's more malleable than I think.

I'm not totally convinced that not eating dairy will make my life worse in any nontrivial way, though. I enjoy eating cheese, sure, but it's not an experience that's unlike any other. I'm pretty sure that the difference in enjoyment in a life in which I eat dairy products and one in which I don't will basically be completely trivial.

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Should I be vegan?

I’m a vegetarian, but I currently eat eggs and dairy products. I’ve tried being vegan in the past, but I’ve never managed to keep it up for more than a few months - I always end up slipping out of it when it becomes too inconvenient (or, to be honest,... Read More

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