Comment author: thebestwecan 30 October 2016 01:33:28PM *  1 point [-]


Comment author: Larks 04 September 2016 05:19:46PM 0 points [-]

Yep. I've used the "Tyrael" username on here for posts that I might have wanted to keep anonymous (largely due to the downvoting brigades), but ended up being okay with it being nonanonymous after the fact.

So to clarify, the accounts:

are all yours?

Comment author: thebestwecan 04 September 2016 05:37:00PM 0 points [-]

The last account is presumably a dummy one created by mapping comments from other sites to the EA Forum, but yeah, the first two are mine.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 24 August 2016 10:41:36AM *  4 points [-]

Recognizing the scale of animal suffering starts with appreciating the sentience of individual animals — something surprisingly difficult to do given society’s bias against them (this bias is sometimes referred to as speciesism). For me, this appreciation has come from getting to know the three animals in my home: Apollo, a six-year-old labrador/border collie mix from an animal shelter in Texas, and Snow and Dualla, two chickens rescued from a battery cage farm in California.

I wonder if we might do ourselves a disservice by making it sound really controversial / surprising that animals are thoroughly sentient? It makes it seem more ok not to believe it, but I think also can come across as patronising / strange to interlocutors. I've in the past had people tell me they're 'pleasantly surprised' that I care about animals, and ask when I began caring about animal suffering. (I have no idea how to answer that - I don't remember a time when I didn't) This feels to me somewhat similar to telling someone who doesn't donate to developing countries that you're surprised they care about extreme poverty, and asking when they started thinking that it was bad for people to be dying of malaria. On the one hand, it feels like a reasonable inference from their behaviour. On the other hand, for almost everyone we're likely to be talking to it will be the case that they do in fact care about the plight of others, and that their reasons for not donating aren't lack of belief in the suffering, or lack of caring about it. I would guess that would be similar for most of the people we talk to about animal suffering: they already know and care about animal suffering, and would be offended to have it implied otherwise. This makes the case easier to make, because it means we're already approximately on the same page, and we can start talking immediately about the scale and tractibility of the problem.

Comment author: thebestwecan 25 August 2016 06:03:42AM *  2 points [-]

I basically agree with this. Some feedback on this post before it was published suggested that I add even more content justifying animal sentience. I pushed back on that for reasons you mention, but still wanted to include the quoted section because (i) even if most people agree with animal sentience when asked, it's a different matter to "appreciate" it and recognize the implications for cause prioritization and other moral decisions, (ii) some people in the EA community have noted skepticism about animal sentience as the main reason for not prioritizing animal advocacy (although this happens less as time goes on), so I wanted to directly confront that.

Comment author: ClaireZabel 24 August 2016 01:24:38AM 5 points [-]

Have you experienced downvoting brigades? How do you distinguish them from sincere negative feedback?

Comment author: thebestwecan 25 August 2016 05:30:08AM *  1 point [-]

Evidence is (i) downvoting is on certain users/topics, rather than certain arguments/rhetoric, (ii) lots of downvotes relative to a small amount of negative comments, (iii) strange timing, e.g. I quickly got two downvotes on the OP before anyone had time to read it (<2 minutes).

I think it happens to me some, but I think it happens a lot to animal-focused content generally.

Edit: jtbc, I mean "systematically downvoting content that contributes to the discussion because you disagree with it, you don't like the author, or other 'improper' reasons." Maybe "brigades" was the wrong word if that suggests coordination, which i'm updating towards after searching online for more uses of the term. Though there might be coordination, not really sure.

Comment author: Stefan_Schubert 23 August 2016 05:28:33PM 7 points [-]

OK. Personally I would prefer the convention that everybody at the EA forum gives the reasons they actually believe in themselves. I think that is more in line with the EA credo of evidence and reason, and with intellectual honesty.

Comment author: thebestwecan 23 August 2016 10:47:47PM *  3 points [-]

Just to be clear, I do "believe in" the near-term reasons outlined in this article, even though far future arguments also matter a lot to me. I also think there's a lot of overlap, e.g. if something is neglected now, that can be good reason to think it will continue being neglected. I don't think this post deviated from evidence-based thinking, the use of reason, or intellectual honesty.

I think personal posts are important, but introductory content and topic summaries are also useful. Several people have asked for a post on "why animals matter" like this one, and I don't think they'd have been nearly as interested in a post where >75% of the content was about the far future considerations.

Also, in case anyone missed it, I did mention this in the post: "Consideration of the far future is the strongest factor in favor of prioritizing animal advocacy for many long-time EAs, including myself."

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 23 August 2016 04:56:17AM 1 point [-]

Am I right in thinking you are the author of the linked post?

Comment author: thebestwecan 23 August 2016 05:12:36PM *  2 points [-]

Yep. I've used the "Tyrael" username on here for posts that I might have wanted to keep anonymous (largely due to the downvoting brigades), but ended up being okay with it being nonanonymous after the fact.

Comment author: MichaelDickens  (EA Profile) 23 August 2016 02:18:47AM 2 points [-]

Farmed animals make up the vast majority of animals used by humans, but receive only a tiny fraction of animal-targeted donations.

Alternatively, farmed animals make up the vast majority of sentient beings (excluding wild animals because let's not even get into that), but receive only an even tinier fraction of donations. Non-human animals are not some special category; they are almost all the beings that matter in the world. Therefore it doesn't make sense to compare donations on factory farming only to animal-targeted donations.

Comment author: thebestwecan 23 August 2016 05:09:24PM 2 points [-]

I worry that simplifying it to one level of neglectedness is (i) not as good of a way of driving home just how neglected it is because people have trouble appreciating very large/very small numbers, (ii) potentially misleading because the fact that it's two levels (3%, 1%) might make the total neglectedness more/less than if it were just one bigger level (3% * 1%). E.g. other animal advocates could notice the neglectedness within their own first-level cause of "helping animals" and farmed animal protection could receive more resources than if it were a first-level cause area that were all out on its own, so to speak.

Granted, (ii) seems like a pretty minor point in the scheme of things, and I do appreciate the sentiment of not wanting to draw lines between humans and other animals, especially due to the excessive use of those lines throughout history to justify animal abuse (and the use of similar lines between humans to justify the abuse of some humans).

Comment author: jasonk 22 August 2016 06:18:53PM 4 points [-]

This is a nice article. Thanks for writing it.

Regarding: "Consideration of the far future is the strongest factor in favor of prioritizing animal advocacy for many long-time EAs, including myself."

How do you see animal advocacy as a cause area stacking up against work on existential risks?

Comment author: thebestwecan 22 August 2016 08:28:14PM *  4 points [-]

Great question! Yeah, I personally favor animal advocacy over reducing extinction risk. (I use existential risk to include both risks of extinction and risks of well-populated, but morally bad, e.g. dystopian, futures.) Here's another blog post that talks about some things to consider when deciding which of these long-term risks to prioritize:

Also note that some work might both decrease extinction and quality risks, such as general EA movement-building and research. Also, "animal advocacy" is kind of a vague term, which could either refer to just "values spreading" (i.e. trying to inspire people, now and/or in the future, to have better values and/or act more morally), or just generally refer to "helping animals." If it's used as the latter, then it could include extinction risk if you think that will help future animals or animal-like beings (e.g. sentient machines).


Why Animals Matter for Effective Altruism

This is an introductory article for people currently learning more about effective altruism . “Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most?” This article explains why it’s so important to consider the wellbeing of animals when choosing where to... Read More
Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 16 January 2016 05:30:46PM 2 points [-]

But if it is profitable, someone will do it for-profit anyway. If it is not profitable, these products will fail in the long run. Perhaps altruistic funding can speed this process up, but it won't make a difference in whether or not these products will have a market in the long run.

This may be true, but doesn't look like much of a dismissal to me. This kind of dynamic applies to pretty much everything we do - it would very often be achieved later anyway. Moving it forward in time gets benefits for that slice of time, and it may also change long term trajectory if sequencing of some changes matters.

Comment author: thebestwecan 18 January 2016 04:53:32PM 1 point [-]

This kind of dynamic applies to pretty much everything we do - it would very often be achieved later anyway.

I don't think it applies nearly as strongly to most forms of social change, which is a significant benefit of that strategy. You might argue that moral progress is inevitable, but I'm quite skeptical of that hypothesis.

But I would agree that speeding things up can still be really valuable, especially given major uncertainty about affecting the far future.

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