Comment author: bwildi 05 June 2018 01:27:16PM 5 points [-]

Thank you for sharing this Holly. Have you read Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar? It's a book full of stories of extraordinarily committed "do-gooders" (some effective altruists, some not), as well as some interesting analysis on the mixed reaction that they receive from society. I think there's a lot of overlap with some of what you've written and the experiences of the individuals in Strangers Drowning, so you're definitely not alone.

I suppose the extent that anyone experiences any of these 8 challenges really depends on how motivated they are by morality. I think most people think it's important that they have a positive impact on the world (or at least, don't have a negative one), but they think it's less important to maximize their positive impact. Even being convinced of EA doesn't necessarily change this: it might just lead you to conclude that you can have a much greater positive impact on the world at little cost to yourself, so you might as well...

I guess personally I think that morality should be my most important motivator abstractly, but just looking at my behaviour, it clearly isn't in practice (at least right now). I suppose I'm glad that I don't find altruism very emotionally difficult, but I also suppose that I feel slightly guilty about not feeling very guilty about not doing more.

Comment author: hollymorgan 05 June 2018 09:20:40PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the recommendation, I've actually never gotten round to reading it and have added to my Christmas list ^_^

I also suppose that I feel slightly guilty about not feeling very guilty about not doing more

I did worry a bit about people reading this as a "How saintly are you?" quiz, and possibly that outweighs the benefits of acknowledging what some people go through. I think all I can say is that this is not a competition you want to win. Walk cheerfully :-)


It’s Supposed To Feel Like This: 8 emotional challenges of altruism

tl;dr If your efforts to do good ever challenge you in the following ways, know that you're not alone: a "do no (significant) harm" lifestyle; material comfort and financial security; career and spare time; facing what you're not giving, and what you'll never be able to give; social approval and... Read More
In response to Open Thread #39
Comment author: hollymorgan 27 October 2017 09:12:18PM *  20 points [-]

I made a list of what I call "life gems" - those rare and precious things in my life that were easily introduced and have enabled me to "level up" in the amount of positive impact I create. It's obviously not exhaustive, but I started it ~3 months ago and have been adding to it since as things occur to me.

On motivation:

  • The System 1 / System 2 framework

  • Audiobooks - I otherwise struggle to get through books (h/t Sarah Morgan?)

  • Token payments to an EA friend every time I continue a bad habit or fail to sustain a regular, good habit (h/t Niel Bowerman and Sam Hilton)

  • Planning when exactly I will work on tasks so that my current to-do list is always short, otherwise I am tempted to do the quick - and usually less important - tasks in order to shorten the list as quickly as possible (h/t Sam Hilton)

On rationality:

  • The 'regression to the mean' phenomenon (h/t Toby Ord)

On practical ethics:

  • The idea of astronomical waste (h/t Ben Hoskin and Nick Bostrom)

  • The idea that if you're not sure where your meat comes from, the harm of factory farming is so great that you should hardly ever take the chance - this is what first made me a vegetarian (h/t a conversation with Marc Crosby although it may be significant that it was still me who came up with the argument)

  • Figures comparing direct suffering caused by various animal foods (h/t Brian Tomasik)

  • The implication of the prevalence of r-selected species for wild animal suffering (h/t probably Oscar Horta, David Pearce or Brian Tomasik)

  • "A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten." (h/t Brian Tomasik and Schopenhauer)

  • Graphs comparing what we'd be prepared to pay for an extra QALY for ourselves, vs what we actually pay for ourselves, vs what the NHS would pay for others, vs what various HIV treatments/prevention methods cost, vs what deworming costs (h/t Toby Ord)

  • The idea that contributing to collective action has value because of the small chance that you tip the balance (h/t Toby Ord)

  • The idea that you should choose a cause to focus your career on before thinking about your comparative advantage, because the scale of the differences between causes dwarfs the scale of the differences in your future talents (h/t 80,000 Hours)

  • The idea that doing good now through donating and direct work at the expense of investing in yourself long-term implies a surprisingly low confidence in the altruism of your future self (h/t Robin Hanson)

  • The idea that the way you evaluate a startup is different from the way you evaluate an established organisation (h/t Rochelle Harris and CEA)

On normative ethics:

  • The realisation that deontology and virtue ethics collapse into consequentialism much more easily than one of the other ways around

On metaethics:

  • The argument that "If nihilism is true, it doesn't matter what I do, so I might as well assume it's false." (h/t DanielLC)

On teamwork:

  • The notion of having a 'blaming mindset' - giving it a bad name helps me to recognise and stop it (h/t Adam Freeman)

  • The notion that everyone is just fighting a hard battle (h/t Will Jefferson and Ian Maclaren)

On my social life:

  • The notion of permanent singlehood as a lifestyle choice

On money:

  • An awareness of the risks of developing expensive new habits / increased standards of living i.e. huge future expense for temporary boost in happiness thanks to the hedonic treadmill

On everything:

  • Committing to weekly reviews with someone else that include the question "How can we improve this process?" (h/t Niel Bowerman and Sam Hilton)

It's a good exercise. It helps you have more realistic expectations of how much future self-improvement you can expect, or how often you will be able to really help someone else improve. The content is interesting too, as indications of what efforts you and others could make to help someone else become more impactful.

Comment author: hollymorgan 04 June 2018 09:53:16PM *  0 points [-]

I think these can be categorised as follows (as of Oct 2017):

  • 8/22 came from my 1st year with the "pre-EA" community ( (4), Toby Ord (3), the rationalists (1))
  • 4/22 from 6 years of social/professional relationships with EA types who are hot on personal development
  • 3/22 from my 2nd-8th years with the pre-EA/EA community
  • 2/22 from 2 years of independent thought prompted by reading philosophy and having a utilitarian friend at sixth form
  • 1/22 from 3 years of colleagues at non-EA orgs (Oxfam retail and a "digital transformation" consultancy startup)
  • 1/22 from independent thought plus ~7 years of knowing sexually diverse communities via university and EA
  • 1/22 from 26 years of family
  • 1/22 from really mixed sources

(+ the Robin Hanson one that I want to take off the list in light of the value drift post)

Takeaway: My first year of being part of an EA-type community was disproportionately valuable.

I wonder how other people's experiences compare, and if they're similar, the extent to which that implies that we should focus community-building on brief intense immersion and retention-wise simply optimise for something like subscribers to a quarterly newsletter.

Comment author: hollymorgan 18 May 2018 04:47:54PM *  7 points [-]

I would be keen to see any more data that anyone else has along these lines.

The reference class I've always used when casually thinking about something like "value drift" is the original CEA team from 2011.

Here's my summary of the public information relevant to their "EA dedication" today (please do comment with additional relevant public info):

If I had to sum that up I'd say: ~75% of the CEA founding team (n=17) are still highly dedicated to doing the most good, 6.5 years on.

If early involvement and higher involvement/dedication are correlated (which I suspect they are), this data fits well with the following observation:

with generally more involved or dedicated people value drifting noticeable less (~30% vs ~60%)

Comment author: Tee 14 March 2018 04:38:41PM 18 points [-]

I interested Tee Barnett and Peter Hurford in adding sexual violence questions to the survey. Therefore sexual violence definitions need to be created.

Thanks for your dedication to this issue. I'm compelled to point out that that briefly speaking about a particular issue in an informal manner should not be seen as an endorsement on behalf of myself or Rethink Charity.

Comment author: hollymorgan 18 March 2018 05:06:27AM 1 point [-]

Is the "collaboration" mentioned here referring to the same brief informal conversation?

Comment author: adamaero  (EA Profile) 10 March 2018 04:12:50PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks. This will be useful for a future presentation. Although, I am going to modify challenges 3-6. Using the word "utilitarian" seems...limiting. EA has utilitarian/consequentialist underpinnings--but not a full blown subscription to only that moral system (i.e., not exclusive). But I'm sure you knew that already. (See Macaskill's comment on 'Effective Altruism' as utilitarian equivocation.)

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking something more along the lines as maximizing impact and the empathy-altruism hypothesis related to meaning well (benevolence) versus actually doing good (beneficence). (Additionally, going to add an outline =)

Also, the slide about Effective Altruism as a movement, founded in 2011? I'm guessing that's for 80k Hours because GWWC has been around since 2009, and the main idea has been around since at least 1972.

Comment author: hollymorgan 15 March 2018 11:55:13PM 2 points [-]

When people ask when EA "started" I'm never sure what to say. But I imagine Geoffrey is referring to when we chose the name with "2011" (see, plus a quick nod to the longer history in Singer's work with "+ Peter Singer".

Comment author: Jorgen_Ljones 03 March 2018 11:09:24PM 0 points [-]

I'm interested in hearing how the fundraising drive went and what the current situation of EA London is?

Comment author: hollymorgan 08 March 2018 02:53:38PM 2 points [-]

Completely successful; we are fully funded for the rest of 2018.

Apologies for not providing an update earlier!

Comment author: hollymorgan 26 February 2018 12:07:39AM 1 point [-]

Hauke thinks this might be worthy of further investigation:

Macroeconomic stability: A recent Lancet study suggests that the 2008 financial crisis was was associated with about 500,000 excess cancer-related deaths worldwide. This is just cancer, which only contributes to about 15% of global mortality and so a naive extrapolation might suggest mortality figures in the millions. Other factors such trade and tourism suffered significantly due to the economic crisis and thus poor countries were probably hit harder in terms of wellbeing. Fund Riccardo Rebonato, an expert on stress testing, to write more on banking regulation and stress testing banks.

From here.

Comment author: hollymorgan 21 February 2018 01:39:07PM 1 point [-]

Vaguely interesting data point: In January 2018 I listed ~240 people in London who I considered - based on personal acquaintance - to be members of the EA community ("EAs"). Compare that with only 66 Londoners taking the EA Survey 2017.

Lots of caveats that mean you shouldn't assume the current global EA community has ~6,680 (=240/66*1837) members e.g. although I'm now a group leader, I imagine there are dozens/hundreds of EAs in London who I don't know; I expect the London community is growing faster than others because it's a popular destination for young, talented, ambitious people; I don't know what proportion of survey takers identified as EAs; I think EA London promoted the survey more than any other group did etc.

Still. Vaguely interesting data point.

Comment author: turnercore 12 February 2018 04:46:43PM 1 point [-]

That was great, I've read about a lot of those things already, but it gave me some more reading material. Fantastic!

The one I'd never really heard anyone say was "An awareness of the risks of developing expensive new habits / increased standards of living i.e. huge future expense for temporary boost in happiness thanks to the hedonic treadmill." - Where did that idea come from?

In response to comment by turnercore on Open Thread #39
Comment author: hollymorgan 13 February 2018 12:41:50AM 0 points [-]

I suppose a variety of places, and it's just particularly relevant to people who try to donate what they can. The term "hedonic treadmill" I probably first encountered via or David Pearce.

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