April Fool's Day Is Very Serious Business

post by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2020-03-13T09:16:37.023Z · score: 64 (44 votes) · EA · GW · 10 comments

Thus it was spoken in a recent 80,000 podcast with Lord MacAskill:

Will: ...I think EA can just be quite a stressful place. So like I made this commitment because I wanted to start actually publishing some stuff to write on the forum. I think after my first post, or my first real post which I think was age-weighted voting, I had an anxiety dream every evening. Like every night. Where I would wake up and my dreams would be the most literal anxiety dreams you could imagine, which are like people talking and people being like, “Yeah, we lost all the respect for you after you wrote that post”.

Rob: That’s incredible, wow!

Will: Yeah and I’d wake up and that’s for a whole week.

Rob: That is so dark.

Will: I know. And if this is like how I feel and similarly–

Rob: How does it feel as a new member of this forum if you write something that has a mistake in it.

Will: Exactly.

In his noted talk on Creativity (transcript), Silly Walks Minister John Cleese states:

[Psychologist Donald MacKinnon] showed that the most creative [scientists, architects, engineers] had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood — “a way of operating” — which allowed their natural creativity to function.

In fact, MacKinnon described this particular facility as an ability to play.

Indeed he described the most creative (when in this mood) as being childlike. For they were able to play with ideas… to explore them… not for any immediate practical purpose but just for enjoyment. Play for its own sake.

...

...humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems, no matter how ‘serious' they may be.

According to a poll following the most recent papal conclave [EA · GW]:

What do you estimate is the probability (in %) that there exists a cause which ought to receive over 20% of EA resources (time, money, etc.), but currently receives little attention?

Of 25 total responses:

Mean: 42.6% probability

Median: 36.5%

Lower quartile: 20%

Upper quartile: 70%

I hope you see what I'm starting to get at by quoting all of these authorities. Note especially the Minister's remarks.

Effective Altruism may be leaving massive world-improving opportunities on the table due to being insufficiently serious.

Two weeks hence, on April Fool's Day, I move we endeavor to fix this grave problem with a Seriousness Tournament. My proposed rules are as follows:

  1. Your post title shall start with "New Top EA Cause:"

  2. Make an edit to mention the seriousness of the day and/or link to this post on April 2, so future readers will know how incredibly serious you were being

  3. More rules forthcoming to disqualify any entry that is not my own

I've retitled last year's post [EA · GW] on global poor's dire need for flying cars to conform with the proposed rules.

Seriousness Tournament entries may distinguish themselves on the basis of being

  1. Funny

  2. Ridiculous

  3. Actually a plausible Top EA Cause

Ideally all three at once.

No formal judging process will take place for this event. But remember, this is serious business. Very serious.

EDIT: Tournament happened here [EA · GW]

10 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by saulius · 2020-03-13T16:46:37.350Z · score: 41 (20 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Interesting idea but maybe you should ask a question [? · GW] on the April Fool's Day about what new cause areas there should be and other people would write their pitches as answers to that question. I think this would be better for multiple reasons than making many top-level posts because:

  • I'd find it much less scary to post a funny answer or a comment, rather than a top-level post because it feels like taking less space. And my intuition is that you'd get more answers this way.
  • If a newcomer comes to the forum and see the title of one of these posts, they would probably not think much about the EA movement. The moment they see a title like "New Top EA Cause: fair rides for chickens", they might close the page and not come back to the EA forum. Note that they could see one of these posts on google searches or by going to a user profile. I'd not make such a post because I'd be afraid that someone might not take me seriously after seeing the title of such post after visiting my profile.
  • All answers would be in one place and easier to find. Otherwise posts about new cause areas would probably not be promoted to be neither community or frontpage posts, so few people would notice them.
  • It would be easier to navigate the forum to find new information because the forum wouldn't be full of these posts
comment by saulius · 2020-03-13T17:30:47.729Z · score: 21 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm now thinking that the EA forum is a strange place. It's literally my day job to spend months writing these long articles with hundreds of references. These articles are then reviewed by multiple people and I spend days copy-editing them. But at the same time we do want people to spontaneously post their ideas without spending days researching them in the very same place where me and my colleagues post these long and serious research articles. Maybe this forum is trying to be too many things at once. Or maybe we should post our research articles elsewhere so that people would feel more free to play with new ideas here. The existence of shortform [? · GW] does help to alleviate this problem though.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-03-16T23:15:50.275Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Please continue to post research articles here! There are plenty of subreddits that contain both deep analysis of quantitative topics and silly memes, and I'd hate for us to limit our ambition for something that Reddit can manage. If people feel intimidated to post, that's the job of our moderation team to help with [EA · GW] :-)

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2020-03-13T22:03:03.730Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Makes sense, I'll do that.

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-03-13T19:56:01.696Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I like having it be an answer to a question. If you'd like to write a top-level post, you can always link to it from your answer.

comment by Khorton · 2020-03-13T10:32:33.111Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great idea. Let's do it!

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-03-13T19:56:23.816Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sure! I'm down to write a new top EA cause on April 1st.

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-04-02T07:04:54.412Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, I've been overwhelmed with things lately, I didn't get round to it. But please do something similar next year!

comment by Mati_Roy · 2020-04-07T13:50:38.084Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Did this end up happening?