What novels, poetry, comics have EA themes, plots or characters?

post by Xing Shi Cai (newptcai) · 2021-07-25T05:30:39.312Z · EA · GW · 12 comments

This is a question post.

I noticed that on the GoodReads book list on Effective Altruism, every single book is non-fiction. Is there no fictional books at all that conveys some ideas of Effective Altruism?


answer by Darius1 (Darius_Meissner) · 2021-07-25T09:38:49.965Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There is Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fan fiction "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" (HPMOR), which conveys many ideas and concepts that are relevant to EA: http://www.hpmor.com/

Please note that there is also a fan-produced audio version of HPMOR: https://hpmorpodcast.com/

comment by MaxRa · 2021-07-25T10:17:59.097Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I also really enjoyed the unofficial sequal, Significant Digits. http://www.anarchyishyperbole.com/p/significant-digits.html

It's easy to make big plans and ask big questions, but a lot harder to follow them through.  Find out what happens to Harry Potter-Evans-Verres, Hermione, Draco, and everyone else once they grow into their roles as leaders, leave the shelter of Hogwarts, and venture out into a wider world of intrigue, politics, and war.  Not official.

"The best HPMOR continuation fic." -Eliezer Yudkowsky

answer by Daystar Eld · 2021-07-26T09:45:11.787Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There's a subreddit called /r/rational which discusses and shares "rational" and "rationalist" fiction. Many of these include EA themes, both explicitly and implicitly. 

Some I'd recommend along with the ones others here have already shared include Worth the Candle, an original fiction about a teenager who gets transported into a fantasy world of his own creation and has to overcome personal challenges like grief and societal ones like complex coordination problems, Animorphs: The Reckoning, a fanfic that re-imagines the alien-body-snatchers story of the original through a much more serious and thoughtful lens, and my own fanfic, Pokemon: The Origin of Species, which explores the pokemon world from a more rational/EA lens while also teaching some psychology and therapy.

There's also comics like Strong Female Protagonist, which is about a superheroine who quits fighting crime and goes to college because she realizes she doesn't know how to "actually" save the world.

answer by D0TheMath · 2021-07-25T05:55:02.664Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The only work I know of which is explicitly effective altruist is A Common Sense Guide to Doing the Most Good, but many works on r/rational share a similar philosophy as many EAs.

answer by Nathan Young · 2021-07-25T10:56:29.853Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

UNSONG by Scott Alexander is good if you want a EAish fanfic of the Bible/ modern politics.

answer by lynettebye · 2021-07-26T09:28:51.742Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I love Miranda's fanfic series "A Song for Two Voices" for EA-themed fantasy.  https://www.archiveofourown.org/series/936480 

"Major themes include the complexity of thinking about ethics, the challenge of taking on problems in the world that seem insurmountable, and trying to do good while dealing with serious mental health issues. The characters do not start out masters of rationality, but they do learn from their mistakes and grow as people, and do their best to help support each other."

Compared to HPMOR, I think "A Song for Two Voices" does a much better job representing the EA community. I.e. trying to do good as a community with limited resources instead of a solitary hero single-handedly saving the day. (Not to bash HPMOR - it's also an excellent read!) 

answer by Ben (Louis_Dixon) · 2021-08-10T14:50:23.827Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I put down some fiction with a bit of a longtermist bent that I enjoyed here [EA · GW]. 

answer by Surbhi B · 2021-07-29T13:30:25.531Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ted Chiang's novella / short story "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" essentially deals with the question of according AI moral personhood. It is an incredibly powerful story that brought to life many ideas I had only considered in the abstract earlier.

answer by drwahl · 2021-07-25T21:04:18.271Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Here are a few [EA · GW] other [EA · GW] forum posts on the general topic of fiction and EA.

answer by topazann · 2021-07-30T10:23:08.160Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

 I had a browse through all of these a while ago and tried to find the most promising books on each subtopic. The ones that stood out are:

Global Poverty: Barry and Øverland - Responding to Global Poverty: Harm, Responsibility, and Agency

Animal Welfare: Jacy Reese - The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System

Existential Risk: Toby Ord - The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by PeterSlattery (Peterslattery) · 2021-07-26T04:30:34.742Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I don't know of any but I will mention that I would really like if there were fiction books with characters whose lives were infused with EA concepts and challenges (e.g., how to prioritise and have  a high impact life and all the challenges entailed in that). I'd probably prefer if such books didn't discuss EA as a movement though. I'd prefer them to be more about the idea of doing as much good as you can (but not in a way that was clearly linked to EA or even necessarily agreed with mainstream EA).    

comment by Nathan Young (nathan) · 2021-08-10T13:22:09.065Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Can I suggest the following title:

"What novels, poetry, comics have EA themes, plots or characters?"