Posts

Ivory Ella donates 10% of profits to conservation; are there other similar orgs? 2022-03-31T16:06:43.429Z
DaveC's Shortform 2022-03-22T18:32:23.170Z

Comments

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Emrik's Shortform · 2022-08-19T16:25:49.467Z · EA · GW

I'm a big proponent of Universal Basic Income. If people don't have to spend a significant amount of time worrying about satisfying their bottom two levels in the Maslow Hierarchy, it frees them up to do some pretty amazing things

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-08-11T15:56:16.780Z · EA · GW

Ryuji Chua advocates for the suffering of fish

Loved Ryuji’s interview on The Daily Show. His nonjudgmental attitude towards those who still eat animals is a wonderful way to keep the conversation open and welcoming. A true embodiment of the "big tent" approach that benefits EA expansion.

I also watched his documentary How Conscious Can A Fish Be? It’s always hard for me to see animals suffering, but I also know I need to keep renewing that emotional connection to the cause so I don't drift towards apathy.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Will faster economic growth make us happier? The relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to Progress Studies · 2022-07-08T17:07:59.189Z · EA · GW

Allow me to pitch the Maslow Hypothesis: money matters insofar as it addresses the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: food, clean air & water, shelter, clothing, health care, safety & security… That's the rounding-off point of ~$75k in Figures 1 & 2. After that, Grant’s Razor kicks in, and the only thing that matters at that point are relationships.

This is why smaller, self-contained communities (Blue Zones, Amish/Mennonite communities, indigenous tribes…)—even without modern comforts and technology— are happier and live longer than those living in modern society; they have unconditional love and belonging, experience no loneliness, and are never forced to bear stress or hardship alone.

In our culture (and especially in the EA space!), there is this insidious belief that one needs to earn their place on the planet through their behaviors or achievements. Thinking you have a debt to pay every time you wake up in the morning is emotionally exhausting and an untenable way to live life over the long term.

The key difference between our modern society and those happier tribal societies: we have made it possible to live life playing a series of finite games—best illustrated by the cooperation dilemma (aka the prisoner's dilemma). Whereas in tribal society, everyone is playing the infinite game collectively. Sure, individuals can choose to give up the infinite game, but that means getting kicked out of the tribe.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-06-03T20:41:15.538Z · EA · GW

Here's a framework I use for A or B decisions. There are 3 scenarios:

  1. One is clearly better than the other.
  2. They are both about the same
  3. I'm not sure; more data is needed.

1 & 2 are easy. In the first case, choose the better one. In the second, choose the one that in your gut you like better (or use the "flip a coin" trick, and notice if you have any resistance to the "winner". That's a great reason to go with the "loser").

It's the third case that's hard. It requires more research or more analysis. But here's the thing: there are costs to doing this work. You have to decide if the opportunity cost to delve in is worth the investment to increase the odds of making  the better choice.

My experience shows that—especially for people who lean heavily on logic and rationality like myself 😁—we tend to overweight "getting it right" at the expense of making a decision and moving on. Switching costs are often lower than you think, and failing fast is actually a great outcome. Unless you are sending a rover to Mars where there is literally no opportunity to "fix it in post-", I suggest you do a a nominal amount of research and analysis, then make a decision and move onto other things in your life. Revisit as needed.

[cross-posted from a comment I wrote in response to Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers]

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Stuff I buy and use: a listicle to boost your consumer surplus and productivity · 2022-06-01T22:21:56.911Z · EA · GW

FWIW:

“Although plant foods are generally lower in choline than animal foods, it’s found in small amounts in a wide range of plant foods. A vegan diet that emphasizes whole foods can provide enough choline.”

https://veganhealth.org/choline-updated/

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Introducing Asterisk · 2022-06-01T21:32:55.313Z · EA · GW

Just a suggestion, but maybe throw a simple landing page up on asteriskmag.com

I recommend Caard as a service for this (happy customer)

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on How do we create a culture of ambition without deteriorating the community’s mental health? · 2022-05-21T17:27:13.944Z · EA · GW

Anyone in EA who feels like a coach or therapist would be helpful in talking through their relationship with “failure” (however they are defining it for themselves) should absolutely schedule a session. Nearly everyone in the EA coaching/therapy space offer the first session for free to EAs. Full disclosure: I am a professional coach and listed on this page:
https://www.eamentalhealthnavigator.com/therapistsandcoaches

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-05-18T13:57:48.251Z · EA · GW

The Atlantic has a column called “Progress” by contributor Derek Thompson with the tag line: A special series focused on two big questions: How do you solve the world’s most important problems? And how do you inspire more people to believe that the most important problems can actually be solved?

Sounds a lot like EA to me.

Derek is holding virtual office hours on June 14

https://www.theatlantic.com/progress/

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-05-14T16:50:53.018Z · EA · GW

Here's a framework I use for A or B decisions. There are 3 scenarios:

  1. One is clearly better than the other.
  2. They are both about the same
  3. I'm not sure; more data is needed.

1 & 2 are easy. In the first case, choose the better one. In the second, choose the one that in your gut you like better (or use the "flip a coin" trick, and notice if you have any resistance to the "winner". That's a great reason to go with the "loser").

It's the third case that's hard. It requires more research or more analysis. But here's the thing: there are costs to doing this work. You have to decide if the opportunity cost to delve in is worth the investment to increase the odds of making  the better choice.

My experience shows that—especially for people who lean heavily on logic and rationality like myself 😁—we tend to overweight "getting it right" at the expense of making a decision and moving on. Switching costs are often lower than you think, and failing fast is actually a great outcome. Unless you are sending a rover to Mars where there is literally no opportunity to "fix it in post-", I suggest you do a a nominal amount of research and analysis, then make a decision and move onto other things in your life. Revisit as needed.

[cross-posted from a comment I wrote in response to Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers]

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on An easy win for hard decisions. · 2022-05-14T16:49:22.139Z · EA · GW

Here's a framework I use for A or B decisions. There are 3 scenarios:

  1. One is clearly better than the other.
  2. They are both about the same
  3. I'm not sure; more data is needed.

1 & 2 are easy. In the first case, choose the better one. In the second, choose the one that in your gut you like better (or use the "flip a coin" trick, and notice if you have any resistance to the "winner". That's a great reason to go with the "loser").

It's the third case that's hard. It requires more research or more analysis. But here's the thing: there are costs to doing this work. You have to decide if the opportunity cost to delve in is worth the investment to increase the odds of making  the better choice.

My experience shows that—especially for people who lean heavily on logic and rationality like myself 😁—we tend to overweight "getting it right" at the expense of making a decision and moving on. Switching costs are often lower than you think, and failing fast is actually a great outcome. Unless you are sending a rover to Mars where there is literally no opportunity to "fix it in post-", I suggest you do a a nominal amount of research and analysis, then make a decision and move onto other things in your life. Revisit as needed.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Off Road: support for EAs struggling at uni · 2022-05-09T16:29:52.434Z · EA · GW

I'm coaching EAs now and would be happy to talk to you about "2. Identify a few great EA coach candidates and pay for their training". I have a sliding scale and offer discounts for full-time students. You can DM me at dave.coaching@pm.me

More info about me on  EA Mental Health Navigator and LinkedIn.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-05-03T02:14:49.160Z · EA · GW

"This Request for Information (RFI) seeks input on how to best collect and integrate environmental health data into the All of Us Research Program dataset.

The All of Us Research Program seeks to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs to enable individualized prevention, treatment, and care for all of us. To do this, the program will partner with one million or more participants nationwide and build one of the most diverse biomedical data resources of its kind. Researchers may leverage the All of Us platform for thousands of studies on a wide range of health conditions.

Diversity is one of the core values of the All of Us Research Program. The program aims to reflect the diversity of the United States and has a special focus on engaging communities that have been underrepresented in health research in the past. Participants are from different races, ethnicities, age groups, and regions of the country. They are also diverse in gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and health status. …"

https://rfi.grants.nih.gov/?s=625848a8fa2300004a006f22

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on 2021 EA Mental Health Survey Results · 2022-05-02T19:10:29.480Z · EA · GW

Need help managing your own mental health and well-being? Check out the EA Mental Health Navigator!

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on On the fence about applying to EAG or EAGx? Talk to someone (me?) who went! · 2022-04-28T13:54:34.158Z · EA · GW

I’m willing to speak to people about my experiences at EAGx Boston 2022 and EAG London 2022. I’m already signed up for EAG San Francisco 2022, so clearly I think it’s a great use of time and resources.

The number one reason to go is to connect with other EAs in person. I embraced the 1:1 philosophy and had about 50–60 1:1s combined over the two conferences. I am mid-career and knew only a handful of people from the online community. But people are friendly, want to connect, and want to help so it was super easy (barely an inconvenience) to schedule 1:1s and talk with folks. Even at meals, it's not hard to just sit down at a table and strike up a convo with whoever is there.

I've had follow-up conversations online, and it really helps to have established that in-person, face-to-face connection first.

If you are worried about the expense, then apply for funding to go. CEA has been very generous with grants since they know fostering deeper connections in the EA community is one of the best ways to spend money.

The one caveat is you should absolutely have at least a solid understanding of the EA philosophy and an earnest desire to contribute in some tangible way.

 You don't need to be perfect to attend. I believe the EA movement benefits from having a more welcoming, "big tent" approach. So if you're not fully vegan, don't give 10% of your income to effective causes, or aren't currently working in EA, that's ok. I think we benefit from having as many people as possible "kick the tires". Yes, that means some won't go any further than that, but even for them, the seeds are planted and they may talk about EA with others in their lives. If we treat browsers with respect, they can be marketing allies to help spread the word.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-04-25T01:39:37.729Z · EA · GW

Abigail Marsh’s 2016 TED talk on “Extraordinary Altruists”

It doesn’t look like anyone posted this TED talk on extraordinary altruists who donate a kidney to a stranger. The thing that stood out for me was the movement away from ego and into what could be called a non-dualistic perspective of humanity. I also detect a higher EQ—the ability to read and connect with others’ emotions, and this requires them to be skillful at recognizing, connecting, and regulating their own emotions.

What are your thoughts?

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Mahdi Complex's Shortform · 2022-04-23T13:02:26.496Z · EA · GW

Check out the book “innovator’s dilemma” and subsequent works. Inertial is real, and big institutions get stuck and rarely can put themselves out of business (Netflix is a notable exception; they baked their vision into the name when they were simply mail order DVDs). Collapse by Jared Diamond is also worth checking out.

The fundamental problem we run into is our innate desire to be part of the tribe makes us susceptible to going along with shared deceptions. See the Asch compliance experiments, and the great episode of Mind Field that replicated the results (it’s on YouTube). Connection > truth.

History is littered with examples of a shared falsehood embraced by the masses until a small group of dissidents eventually forces the shared understanding past the inflection point; e.g. earth is flat, earth is the center of the universe, the ether, relativity, illness caused by microbes…

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Cait_Lion's Shortform · 2022-04-23T12:45:20.703Z · EA · GW

Check out the book “how to have impossible conversations”. It has some really great thoughts on creating spaces where you help the other person make their own journey rather than trying (and failing) to do it for them.

Also, the inner critic is very real, especially in our hyper competitive, achievement oriented, production/consumption culture. There is another way to hold oneself and others in a light, nonjudgmental way. But from experience it takes a lot of emotional and spiritual work with a trustworthy, compassionate coach/counselor/mentor. This story illustrates the depth of our societal divide:

In a meeting between the Dalai Lama and a group of American psychologists in 1990, one of the psychologists brought up the concept of negative self-talk. Since there are no words in Tibetan that translate into low self-esteem and self-loathing, it took quite a long time for the psychologists to convey what they meant. But this wasn’t a translation problem. It was a problem of conceptualization. Self-loathing? People do that? The Dalai Lama was incredulous. Once the Dalai Lama understood what they were saying, he turned to the Tibetan monks in the room, and after explaining what the psychologists were suggesting, he asked, “How many of you have experienced this low-self esteem, self-contempt or self-loathing?”

Complete silence.

Here was a psychological state of mind so ubiquitous in our culture that everyone experiences it from time to time, if not every single day. Yet the Tibetans—trained since childhood in the art of a mental exercise they call meditation—acted like they were being told about some alien life form. The Dalai Lama turned back to the psychologists and asked a simple question: “Why would you ever let your mind get like this?”

Excerpt from The Awakened Ape

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on MathiasKB's Shortform · 2022-04-23T10:12:23.917Z · EA · GW

The underlying desire of most addictive tendencies in our production/consumption culture is the desire to feel more connected with a tribe (Maslow’s love and belonging). We are—at our core—social creatures. Our ancestors reinforced connections with tribe mates every day, and they clearly knew the values they shared with the tribe. They were living life within the parameters in which we evolved to thrive.

In our society the tribes have been disbanded in favor of a more interconnected world, and likewise values have become diffuse and harder for individuals to know what they truly believe in. Just like throwing 20k chickens into a barn causes them to go crazy and peck one another to death because their brains can’t handle a pecking order that big, so too is it with humans who are not able to instinctively operate in such a vastly more complex and relationally fluid world where the environment has changed so radically from tribal days.

Invest in a few (3-5) deeply intimate relationships where you know you are equals and can be there unconditionally and without judgment for each other. As Robin Dunbar says in his excellent book “Friends”:

It was the social measures that most influenced your chances of surviving… The best predictors were those that contrasted high versus low frequencies of social support and those that measured how well integrated you were into your social network and your local community. Scoring high on these increased your chances of surviving by as much as 50 per cent… it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that you can eat as much as you like, drink as much alcohol as you want, slob about as much as you fancy, fail to do your exercises and live in as polluted an atmosphere as you can find, and you will barely notice the difference… You will certainly do yourself a favor by eating better, taking more exercise and popping the pills they give you, but you’ll do considerably better just by having some friends.

Also see Robert Waldinger’s TED talk on the Grant study.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-04-18T08:40:53.834Z · EA · GW

Devil’s Advocate: the only way to truly minimize suffering is to eliminate all life.

Of course, that also eliminates all serene existence too. I don't think anyone compassionate would advocate for this modest proposal.

Even QALY’s don't really work; they don't capture what proportion of a given life was in suffering vs serenity. It seems to me we should be trying to maximize QALYs/DALYs, right?

[Apologies if this is a noob question; I looked around but couldn't find anything that satisfactorily addressed this.]

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on david_reinstein's Shortform · 2022-04-18T08:27:54.720Z · EA · GW

Me: “The Dunning-Kruger effect is real.”
Linch: “…the claimed effect is real…”

Great to know that we are in agreement, Linch! The logical follow-up question is what other factor(s) has (have) a higher impact on the effect?

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on HaukeHillebrandt's Shortform · 2022-04-13T18:43:55.839Z · EA · GW

Would be cool if we could deploy a really great ML summarization tool to use on posts to make this sort of thing automatic.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on david_reinstein's Shortform · 2022-04-13T18:43:04.170Z · EA · GW

The Dunning-Kruger effect is real. But with a few basic sanity checks, I believe any thoughtful EA can determine whether it's imposter syndrome vs actual under-qualification. 

If you have evidence to support your non-trivial investment in the area—classes, degrees, self-directed learning, projects, jobs—you are probably at least qualified for an entry-level position in a given area.

Probably the easiest way to check is by asking an impartial 3rd party, like an 80kH Advisor, or even just someone who already has experience working in that field.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Stress - effective ways to reduce it · 2022-04-10T21:24:51.798Z · EA · GW

I appreciate you putting these guides out into the world, Ben!

Here are a few additional resources I’ve used with my coaching clients:

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
  2. Progressive Relaxation
  3. Physiological sighing
  4. Forest Bathing

Of course talking things over with a nonjudgmental, compassionate listener (therapist, coach, close friend, an online resource like 7 Cups…) can make a huge difference. It's common to carry around judgmental narratives about ourselves and our performance. Examining them with another person is one of the most effective ways to get new perspectives.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Sleep: effective ways to improve it · 2022-04-10T21:07:54.699Z · EA · GW

Thanks for taking the initiative to publish this. I offer these resources
 

  1. A good all-around guide from The Blue Zones
  2. Humans may be hard-wired for segmented sleep
  3. If you are getting poor sleep, you may be lonely

Johann Hari touches on this last one in his excellent book, Lost Connections:

Anywhere in the world where people describe being lonely, they will also—throughout their sleep—experience more of something called ‘micro-awakenings.’ These are small moments you won’t recall when you wake up, but in which you rise a little from your slumber. All other social animals do the same thing when they’re isolated too. The best theory is that you don’t feel safe going to sleep when you’re lonely, because early humans literally weren’t safe if they were sleeping apart from the tribe. You know nobody’s got your back—so your brain won’t let you go into full sleep mode. Measuring these ‘micro-awakenings’ is a good way of measuring loneliness… [A researcher studying the Hutterites in the American Dakotas found] they had barely any. The [Hutterite] community showed the lowest level of loneliness that [the researcher had] seen anywhere in the world. It really stunned [him].

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Liars · 2022-04-06T23:04:23.076Z · EA · GW

There’s a term I learned during the #MeToo revelations: broken step (or missing stair). Kelsey, I think you are right—people rationally look at the cost/benefit of coming forward and conclude that the cost to them personally is too great for them to bear relative to the likely societal benefit.

Anonymous review sites like GlassDoor and VC Guide could possibly be a model for exposing the truth in industries where speaking on the record could be a career-ending decision. And there are news sites like The Intercept that seem more willing to protect sources.

Also, a shout-out to those courageous people who do the calculus and decide public interest outweighs potential personal backlash: Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, Christine Blasey Ford, and Frances Haugen all come to mind ❤️

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-04-04T13:41:30.020Z · EA · GW

I'm a big fan of standup comedians. In many cases, they offer alternative viewpoints that challenge societal norms.

In that vein, Whitney Cummings has a Netflix special from July 2019 (Can I Touch It?) where the second half is about the growing market for more and more realistic sex dolls and touches on some AI safety issues. TBH, it lacks depth and nuance, but she's a comedian going for laughs, not meaningful discourse.  But I post it here because I do appreciate seeing these issues come up in more mainstream culture.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Ivory Ella donates 10% of profits to conservation; are there other similar orgs? · 2022-04-02T21:57:28.724Z · EA · GW

I wish you would spend more time on it. I believe the whole community would benefit from your curated list. Or at least please point us in the right direction.

Regarding their effectiveness, they are the preeminent elephant research and conservation organization in the world. They help manage the elephant crisis fund, and they share their experiences and best practices with other conservation orgs (for example they help share the cost of a wildlife vet in central Kenya). They also embody community based conservation. They partner with communities in the elephant range and provide support like scholarships to assign concrete value to conserving elephants. They also innovated the beehive fence to produce honey for extra income and safeguard crops from raiding elephants.

I believe the world is more valuable with diverse megafauna in it. Even if STE is not as effective as mosquito nets or deworming, it still falls in the realm of EA topics mitigating wild animal suffering and environment/climate change. I think it’s a worthwhile investment.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Ben_West's Shortform · 2022-03-27T00:12:39.993Z · EA · GW

It depends on what you want to learn. At a startup, people will often get a lot more breadth of scope than they would otherwise in an established company. Yes, you might not have in-house mentors or seasoned pros to learn from, but these days motivated people can fill in the holes outside the org.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Peter S. Park's Shortform · 2022-03-26T22:15:08.258Z · EA · GW

What problem would this solve? And how does the existence of Sci-Hub change the calculus?
https://www.sci-hub.st

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-03-25T15:56:19.740Z · EA · GW

Hypothesis: our planet’s ecosystem and the process of evolution necessarily have some inherent level (or range) of pain and suffering. Has anyone done an analysis of what this might be? Having this data from pre-civilization times would be most enlightening, as it would give an idea of what the system looks like without human meddling (whether intentional or not).

And yes it will fluctuate. Earth’s previous mass extinction events would involve a HUGE amount of suffering in a short period of time (like that first day after the Chicxulub impact). But what is the average baseline?

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Yonatan Cale's Shortform · 2022-03-25T00:53:32.339Z · EA · GW

I don't have direct experience, but others I know have successfully used Magic

https://getmagic.com

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on saulius's Shortform · 2022-03-24T17:43:10.042Z · EA · GW

Check out #33 on the Future Fund list of project ideas:

https://ftxfuturefund.org/projects/

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on DaveC's Shortform · 2022-03-22T18:32:23.390Z · EA · GW

Good data visualization of record temperatures in USA  cities. https://pudding.cool/2022/03/weather-map/

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on Problem area report: Pain · 2021-01-04T05:21:10.794Z · EA · GW

Lower back pain cause is simple—we are not using our great ape bodies in the way that evolution designed them to be used. Our ancestors hunted and gathered. They moved their bodies every day and for much of the day walking, running, crouching squatting, grabbing etc. Any seats certainly didn't have backrests. All of our ancestors cores were in great shape because they were working them out nearly every waking moment. Our desire to obtain comfort has led us to "convenience ourselves to death".

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on A Happiness Manifesto: Why and How Effective Altruism Should Rethink its Approach to Maximising Human Welfare · 2018-12-17T06:14:16.044Z · EA · GW

I do feel the need to clarify that I'm talking about people who have already met Maslow's first and second levels. I do agree that there are people out there who lack in basic food/water, clothing, shelter, hygiene, health and safety. What I'm talking about here is essentially levels 3 and 4.

Comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) on A Happiness Manifesto: Why and How Effective Altruism Should Rethink its Approach to Maximising Human Welfare · 2018-12-16T01:17:13.159Z · EA · GW

Great topic, and hopefully I'm not coming off as pedantic when I say that we really need to make a distinction between happiness (which I argue is one of the fleeting emotions no different than fear or anger or embarrassment) and fulfillment (aka serenity, inner peace, contentment). People who are fulfilled embrace all of their emotions (including happiness) without judgement or an attempt to control, and they process them by connecting with themselves and others in healthy ways, which further leads to fulfillment. We are social, emotional apes, and all of the higher order emotions exist in order to bring the social group closer together.

So when it comes to measuring good, we should be measuring fulfillment, which itself is just a proxy for healthy emotional connections with other people. See the Harvard Longitudinal Study, Blue Zones, and Awakened Ape and even what it means to be a prosocial ape as some sources that point towards this theory.