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A Problem with Motivation 2022-05-25T08:35:32.478Z

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Comment by James Aitchison on EA Dedicates · 2022-06-25T14:59:56.278Z · EA · GW

Worth adding that there is also a historic aspect to the Dedicate /  Non-Dedicate distinction in that EA’s origins were in more of a totalising, thrifty, monkish, Dedicate approach and over time Non-Dedicates have become more significant.  

Comment by James Aitchison on Will faster economic growth make us happier? The relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to Progress Studies · 2022-06-25T14:04:30.419Z · EA · GW

Thank you for a super, clear, comprehensive and well-argued talk setting out your up to date understanding of the Easterlin paradox.  Great to have the references which I have been checking out.  I am pleased you went in to depth on scale shifts as I suspect that generational changes in what is meant by a good life is  the biggest challenge to definitively concluding  that economic growth does little for life satisfaction.

Comment by James Aitchison on Seven ways to become unstoppably agentic · 2022-06-19T13:02:02.586Z · EA · GW

I love this post, it is so engagingly written.  And the links are great, and have opened up valuable new ideas and sources for me.   I strongly recommend your list of further reading and. indeed, all the links you provide.

You and your sources make the case for a number of very valuable ideas including  asking for help, using social media, writing blogs, taking action, taking risk.  How far to pursue each of these will obviously depend on personality and circumstances and will be a matter of balance. 

Comment by James Aitchison on Seven ways to become unstoppably agentic · 2022-06-19T09:01:14.861Z · EA · GW

I love this post, it is so engagingly written.  And the links are great, and have opened up valuable new ideas and sources for me.   I strongly recommend your list of further reading and. indeed, all the links you provide.

You and your sources make the case for a number of very valuable ideas including  asking for help, using social media, writing blogs, taking action, taking risk.  How far to pursue each of these will obviously depend on personality and circumstances and will be a matter of balance. 

Comment by James Aitchison on Lifeguards · 2022-06-12T16:12:43.151Z · EA · GW

How much should you do ‘off your own bat‘ (to use the British cricket idiom)?  Well, most value  comes from people working in their roles, or from working with others to create change, but sometimes there are opportunities that would be missed without an individual going out on a limb.

Comment by James Aitchison on I'm interviewing Oxford philosopher, global priorities researcher and early thinker in EA, Andreas Mogensen. What should I ask him? · 2022-06-11T20:43:47.622Z · EA · GW

What books or papers have been most important for Andreas?  What books does he recommend that EAs should read?

Comment by James Aitchison on The Strange Shortage of Moral Optimizers · 2022-06-09T10:25:34.344Z · EA · GW

Thank you for this article, full of nuance. 

I think what makes effective altruism unique is that it is trying without preconceptions to work out how to do the most good.  Beneficentric people may help neighbours, or civic groups, or charities, or religions, or pressure groups, or political parties, but these different approaches are not ranked by effectiveness.  

There have always have been some saints, but it is a new idea to try to be an impartial moral maximiser, working through an information-hungry  social movement.

Comment by James Aitchison on Global health is important for the epistemic foundations of EA, even for longtermists · 2022-06-07T13:43:36.870Z · EA · GW

Another advantage from global poverty and health projects is demonstrating clearly the multiplier effect of donations.  The base case is a cash transfer to a person with one hundredth of the donor’s income, which should give a one hundred times boost to welfare.  From this compelling starting point we can then proceed to argue why in expectation other projects may do even better.  We can picture a range of projects from those with good evidence base but returns only a modest multiple above cash transfers (bed nets) to project which could produce higher returns but have limited evidence (charity start ups).  Doners may want to fund along this continuum.

Comment by James Aitchison on Four Concerns Regarding Longtermism · 2022-06-07T12:56:27.018Z · EA · GW

I was struck by your paragraph ‘ A wildly successful EA movement could do as much good for the world as almost any other social movement in history.  Even if the movement is only marginally successful, if the precepts underlying the movement are somewhat sound, the utility implications are enormous.’

I suspect if EA is to do massive good, this is more likely to come from developing and promoting ideas such as extinction risk reduction that come to be adopted politically, rather than from EA’s direct philanthropy. The biggest wins may come through political channels.

I agree with your arguments against focusing too much on longtermism. 

Comment by James Aitchison on Socrates Café: A Different Approach to Discussion · 2022-06-07T11:59:47.631Z · EA · GW

A further addition to the EA quiver would be reading groups to discuss the best books related to EA. As with the Socrates Cafe, discussions  could be structured around answering a central question.

Comment by James Aitchison on New substack on utilitarian ethics: Good Thoughts · 2022-05-27T09:00:33.353Z · EA · GW

Thank you for introducing your site which I am finding very valuable.   I am enjoying both your archive of  articles and your most recent posts and have subscribed to your newsletter.  Thank you also for utilitarianism.net which is great to have as a public resource.

Comment by James Aitchison on A Problem with Motivation · 2022-05-26T16:15:15.477Z · EA · GW

Yes, it is harder to care for distant or statistical people even if it is normatively the right thing to do.  We shouldn't overestimate how much we can do by will power alone, but changing norms may be effective.  

Comment by James Aitchison on Look Out The Window · 2022-05-13T11:29:24.100Z · EA · GW

A brilliant article, thank you.  My highlight: We are part of a ragtag team of people who try to care about everyone and everything that matters. We are the first true attempt at applied impartial good maximization.

Comment by James Aitchison on Why do you care? · 2022-05-09T16:23:11.235Z · EA · GW

I was interested to see the suggestion that rational discussions of value are cut short by the  is-ought gap.  This has been an influential  view but I have a different angle.

We should acknowledge that normative judgements have a different semantic nature from the factual. When we use normative words such as 'ought' and 'good' we make judgements relative to ends or other criteria. Factual judgements report on facts in the world, normative judgements report on relations between objects and criteria.  Judgements of practical reason, of how we ought to act, are about our means and our ends.

 But we can and do reason about both means and ends.  Judgements of practical reason range from the certain 'You  ought to turn right to get to the station' to the unknowable 'Ought I to take this job for my long-run happiness?'  There are better and worse ends - welfare is clearly more important than grass-counting and there are strong arguments why welfare is a better end than national glory. 

Among ends, happiness seems to have a special place.  We are creatures with valenced experience and we are directly aware that our own enjoyment is good and our suffering is bad.  Reason seems to require us to expand the circle to also consider the enjoyment and suffering of other creatures.  If nothing else, extremes of enjoyment and suffering surely matter.