80,000 Episode Re: Size of Community 2020-06-16T01:18:57.617Z · score: 14 (5 votes)


Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-07-09T20:35:01.029Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

My video:

All the Unconference videos are in a playlist, above!

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-30T04:47:21.288Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks, Michael! I would definitely love to have the talk linked from EA Hub. Cafelow, is that a possibility?

I have definitely checked out SHIC and skimmed through their materials. My initial concept for teaching in schools has a notable distinction from them. Before considering the idea of internal vs. external movement building, my concept was to do a single lesson, spark a lightbulb moment with a student or two who might be EA-inclined, give them a copy of "Doing Good Better," and then move on. Coming back for more lessons with the same class seemed like it would yield diminishing returns. I didn't think I would convince any additional students to become EA the second go-around.

However, reading back through Catherine's conclusions in the High School EA Outreach post, it never occurred to me that sustained exposure might be what encourages some would-be EAs who agree with my first lesson to actually adapt EA behavior.

Since the Unconference and my recent interest in the idea of external movement building, I do think I'd like to rethink a set of materials specifically aimed at people who are not EA-inclined, for classroom use, for general use by EAs when talking to non-EAs, and as guidelines for broader public outreach.

From the conclusions of the contributors to the High School EA Outreach post (and from my own findings) it might be hard to get non-EA young people to put in additional resources into doing good. But collectively, young people will still give tons of money to walk-a-thons and fundraisers they see on Facebook. If we can't increase the quantity of giving, is it possible to improve the quality? It seems like Charity Navigator has been able to become a (nearly) household name and perpetuate certain ideas about giving. This could be a proof of concept that a large subset of the public is open to new ideas about how to do good, and that non-EA charitable funds could theoretically be redirected to more effective charities.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-29T20:48:18.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Thomas. Just sent you a message.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on 80,000 Episode Re: Size of Community · 2020-06-16T03:17:17.827Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you. This is definitely at least part of what I was remembering! Was there a separate one then involving arguments for EA remaining apolitcal? (I know there's may be small mentions of that on several episodes.)

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-14T21:55:14.229Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Sounds good! Yes, please stay in touch!

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-12T16:15:14.859Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Glad you are doing this, thank you! It's peripherally related but I'm curious if you have any insight on the effectiveness of giving money to political campaigns, especially for races that might be on the fence between two very different candidates.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-12T16:06:35.917Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Sounds interesting! I'm curious what circling actually entails. Could you describe what happens in one of the sessions?

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-12T15:57:07.216Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I think this is a great idea. There's definitely an ideal of what it means to be EA that is set by the demands of moral philosophy and by EA superstars. However, there is a limit to what most people (even the superstars) can reasonably accomplish. It could be helpful to highlight the struggle between the ideal and the practical, and what each guest is doing to try to improve.

I have professional experience in audio engineering so let me know if you have any questions on that front, and would love to be a guest at some point (you can see my project on this page.)

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-11T22:53:41.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Whoa, cool. I did not know about this, thank you.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-11T15:07:13.296Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I like your idea that the applicability of EA concepts in daily life decision-making can be used to show EA as a powerful tool. I haven't specifically done that yet but have considered it.

I had expected to get pushback when I first started teaching about prioritizing causes and was careful about how I introduced it. However, students don't really push back on it, and when we work through examples, they do understand why an EA might prioritize, for example, schistosomiasis charities over cancer ones. That said, based on post-lesson surveys, that doesn't always translate to a shift in thinking after the lesson (though for some students it has.) I'm still working on bridging the gap between mastery of a theoretical concept and actual application in real life.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-10T20:35:15.466Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks! I'm 100% with you on the idea that real-world examples can help people to understand the importance of EA. Peter Singer does it well, and I start off my presentation for high school/college students by giving them a hypothetical amount of money and working through a decision about where to donate.

Sometimes I use an example of a firefighter in a burning building. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the firefighter will be able to save everyone so some tough decisions have to be made in order to save the most people in a finite amount of time.

I think the more people working on good ways to promote EA ideas, the better; I'd love to hear about whatever you work on.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-09T18:25:32.641Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the comment! I've definitely had to choose my battles when making my "elevator pitch" to non EA people who may have limited time or interest. It's an interesting idea to go the next level: not just what and how should we tell people about EA in general, but very literally, what and how should we tell people about EA when given certain real-world time constraints.

Some form of importance, as you mentioned, and ease of explaining, should be factors, I agree. I'd say those are similar but not entirely the same as these two of my considerations above:

We might want ideas that…
...are not likely to be misinterpreted or misused. (SIMILAR TO EASE OF EXPLAINING)


...will actually make an impact if applied. (SIMILAR TO IMPORTANCE)

I'm glad you mentioned "ease of explaining" because in teaching, I'm constantly negotiating between what I ideally want students to know, and the likelihood that I will be able to successfully impart it to them.

My goal is to change general public thinking about how to do good. I think neglectedness as an EA idea is specifically for choosing cause areas. I've stayed away from proposing specific cause areas (and charities) as EA ideas to spread to the public for a couple reasons:

  • Individual charities or cause areas may have relatively short shelf-life before we, as the EA Community, re-prioritize them (for various reasons). If we put time and effort into embedding certain EA ideas in the public mind, I think it makes sense for them to be general and long-lasting so that their relevance doesn't expire.
  • Even within the EA community (a group of altruistic and brilliant people) there is hardly consensus about which cause areas or charities we should prioritize. If we make our public face about promoting any specific cause or charity, a lot of the public will disagree and push back (see my second consideration: "...won't be contentious"). On the other hand, if we promote more general ideas that are hard to dispute (like the use of evidence for the purposes of doing good) few could disagree and it could help many people to do good even a little more effectively.

Currently there are three ideas that I think should be prioritized (though my thinking could likely change) and in the future I'd be curious as to your and others' opinion of how to best present them with limited time.

Thanks for sending the video. I saw him talk about this in the fall! Seems like he's thinking on even the next level. Instead of my current thinking about providing EA tools that the public could have in order to maximize the good they do, he's asking: "What values should the public hold that define what it means to do good?" It seems like his idea could have a massive impact if somehow those values could become widespread.

Comment by danny_lipsitz on EAGxVirtual Unconference (Saturday, June 20th 2020) · 2020-06-09T00:34:06.060Z · score: 55 (47 votes) · EA · GW

Discussing EA with Non-EA People | External Movement-Building


When I first started calling myself an Effective Altruist, it was hard to talk about EA to other people. If it came up, I would find myself backed into a corner, ultimately trying to defend utilitarianism to someone who didn’t want to be convinced. These conversations didn’t feel productive. So for a while, I kept EA to myself.

Eventually I looked for carefully-worded, clear ways to explain EA concepts that are non-contentious but still retain fidelity to the heart and values of EA. I’ve learned that just because many people do not want to have long philosophical discussions, look at graphs, and listen to 3-hour podcasts, does not mean they don’t want to do a lot of good. Just like the animal rights movement has had success getting non-vegans to cut back on meat consumption, the EA movement could benefit by promoting certain concepts to people who don’t identify as EA.

Pulling from my 8 years of experience as a “highly-effective” public school educator and 2 years of experience giving and honing my talk about EA for high school and college students (on an irregular basis), I’d like to share my thoughts on goals and best practices for what I call “external movement building,” or the spread of EA ideas outside of the EA community.

Guiding Question

What ideas (if any) should we, the EA community, popularize for the general public? And how should we frame those ideas?

We might want ideas that…

...are not likely to be misinterpreted or misused.

Good candidates will retain fidelity to the heart of EA without requiring “EA Policing.” They will give a clear and foolproof message as they spread around.

...will not be contentious.

We might want the low-hanging fruit of ideas people will easily agree with but just never considered.

...will actually make an impact if applied.

My Current Thinking

I'll explain why I believe we should focus on promoting the use of evidence, leverage, and personal advantage to the general public when they seek to do good.

If chosen, I'd like to be part of the late sessions if possible, thank you!

(And thanks to Aaron Gertler for the revision help!)

Comment by danny_lipsitz on New book — "Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications" · 2020-06-07T21:05:51.983Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I'm happy to have read this! This is a well-articulated post about something I've been thinking about for a while.

I definitely intuit that it's more important to reduce suffering than to increase pleasure. I wonder how much of my suffering-focused viewpoint is due to a bias: hearing stories about other people suffering makes me quite sad, but hearing about other people being extremely happy doesn't tend to make me that happy unless it's someone I know personally, or maybe someone who has a relatable backstory.

Maybe our sense of empathy is a little biased because as we evolved, it was more important to help others in our tribe who were in danger of dying than to somehow celebrate when they had their needs met. I'm just theorizing here.

I look forward to checking out the book!