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Comment by jonathan_michel on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-12-28T10:41:49.528Z · EA · GW

"The mark of a civilised person is the ability to look at a column of numbers and weep."

Bertrand Russell 

“Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.”

Mahatma Ghandi

“It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening.”

H. G. Wells

“Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation.”

Alasdair Gray

"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory."

Irena Sendler

“Why should costs and benefits receive less weight, simply because they are further in the future? When the future comes, these benefits and costs will be no less real. Imagine finding out that you, having just reached your twenty-first birthday, must soon die of cancer because one evening Cleopatra wanted an extra helping of dessert. How could this be justified?”

Derek Parfit

Comment by jonathan_michel on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-12-28T10:31:09.250Z · EA · GW

A few more wonderful quotes from HPMOR:

"And Harry remembered what Professor Quirrell had said beneath the starlight: Sometimes, when this flawed world seems unusually hateful, I wonder whether there might be some other place, far away, where I should have been… But the stars are so very, very far away… And I wonder what I would dream about, if I slept for a long, long time.

Right now this flawed world seemed unusually hateful. And Harry couldn’t understand Professor Quirrell’s words, it might have been an alien that had spoken, or an Artificial Intelligence, something built along such different lines from Harry that his brain couldn’t be forced to operate in that mode.

You couldn’t leave your home planet while it still contained a place like Azkaban. 

You had to stay and fight."


"Every time you spend money in order to save a life with some probability, you establish a lower bound on the monetary value of a life. Every time you refuse to spend money to save a life with some probability, you establish an upper bound on the monetary value of life. If your upper bounds and lower bounds are inconsistent, it means you could move money from one place to another, and save more lives at the same cost. So if you want to use a bounded amount of money to save as many lives as possible, your choices must be consistent with some monetary value assigned to a human life; if not then you could reshuffle the same money and do better. *How very sad, how very hollow the indignation, of those who refuse to say that money and life can ever be compared, when all they’re doing is forbidding the strategy that saves the most people, for the sake of pretentious moral grandstanding...*"

Comment by jonathan_michel on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-12-28T10:24:27.839Z · EA · GW

Another one from this post:

"There may well come a day when humanity would tear apart a thousand suns in order to prevent a single untimely death.

That is the value of a life."

Comment by jonathan_michel on What quotes do you find most inspire you to use your resources (effectively) to help others? · 2020-12-28T10:21:01.856Z · EA · GW

Another quote by MacFarquhar on Parfit:

"As for his various eccentricities, I don’t think they add anything to an understanding of his philosophy, but I find him very moving as a person. When I was interviewing him for the first time, for instance, we were in the middle of a conversation and suddenly he burst into tears. It was completely unexpected, because we were not talking about anything emotional or personal, as I would define those things. I was quite startled, and as he cried I sat there rewinding our conversation in my head, trying to figure out what had upset him. Later, I asked him about it. It turned out that what had made him cry was the idea of suffering. We had been talking about suffering in the abstract. I found that very striking.

Now, I don’t think any professional philosopher is going to make this mistake, but nonprofessionals might think that utilitarianism, for instance (Parfit is a utilitarian), or certain other philosophical ways of think about morality, are quite unemotional, quite calculating, quite cold; and so because as I am writing mostly for nonphilosophers, it seemed like a good corrective to know that for someone like Parfit these issues are extremely emotional, even in the abstract.

The weird thing was that the same thing happened again with a philosophy graduate student whom I was interviewing some months later. Now you’re going to start thinking it’s me, but I was interviewing a philosophy graduate student who, like Parfit, had a very unemotional demeanor; we started talking about suffering in the abstract, and he burst into tears. I don’t quite know what to make of all this but I do think that insofar as one is interested in the relationship of ideas to people who think about them, and not just in the ideas themselves, those small events are moving and important."

Comment by jonathan_michel on Prabhat Soni's Shortform · 2020-12-27T11:39:32.843Z · EA · GW

I would recommend this short essay on the topic: Human Extinction, Asymmetry, and Option Value
Abstract: "How should we evaluate events that could cause the extinction of the human species? I argue that even if we believe in a moral view according to which human extinction would be a good thing, we still have strong reason to prevent near-term human extinction."
(Just to clarify: this essay was not written by me)
 

Comment by jonathan_michel on nickmatt's Shortform · 2020-11-28T13:19:14.113Z · EA · GW

For everyone who is also looking up the books right now. Here are the links:

Comment by jonathan_michel on Stories and altruism · 2020-11-28T13:04:49.565Z · EA · GW

Thanks a lot for writing this. 


One thing I started recently is collecting instances of people acting altruistic and courageous and reading about these when I need motivation (their Wikipedia articles or a text I wrote myself etc.). These examples can go from very small acts to big ones. Reading about actual examples of people standing up to the social norms or laws of their time to do the right thing gives me a lot of motivation to keep pursuing an altruistic path even in the face of difficulty. One example I came across recently is a farther who supported his daughter when she refused to marry a man who raped her (a so called “rehabilitating marriage” which was the custom (and law!) in mid 20th century Sicily). He did so although their town  ostracised them and even burned down their farm. 


Also there is a good amount of great blog posts which I find really motivating. The ones I can think of from the top of my head are:

Comment by jonathan_michel on What are some quick, easy, repeatable ways to do good? · 2020-11-15T15:03:59.363Z · EA · GW

Something I enjoy doing and that really lifts my mood is editing Wikipedia. One reason why I enjoy doing this is the feeling of contributing to a community and "adding" to this huge collection of knowledge. It is also plausibly at least somewhat impactful. Wikipedia is often one of the first sources people read on a topic if they want to know more about it. There are a Lott of low hanging fruits, especially, if you are a non-english speaker since the articles relevant to EA's are often quite bad in the non-english Wikis. Here and here are overviews of articles that could be improved or created. For the warm glow of adding to humanities knowledge you can also add to non-EA related articles (e.g. your favourite not-super-famous-Band, a topic related to a term paper you recently wrote etc.). This sometimes feels easier since you don't have to think so much about framing the topic perfectly.