What should an effective altruist be committed to? 2014-12-17T13:21:14.006Z · score: 9 (9 votes)


Comment by peter_hartree on Supportive scepticism in practice · 2015-01-25T13:35:27.308Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Jess & Michelle: thanks for this excellent post. Three remarks I'd like to add:

1. We all need support, but individuals vary considerably in the kind of support they need in order to flourish. A kind of support that works well for one person might feel patronising, frustrating or stifling to another, or cold, distant and uncaring to a third. To be effectively supportive, we must be sensitive to individual needs.

2. Being supportive is difficult, so individuals in the community should help others support them. If the support you're getting from the community is suboptimal, it's unlikely that other individuals are entirely to blame.

3. As a community, we should create an atmosphere where it's easy for people to ask for more or different kinds of support when they need to. Admitting vulnerability and requesting support is a sign of strength and maturity, not weakness, so we should praise, encourage and reward those who do this.

Comment by peter_hartree on EAs on RSS and Reddit! · 2015-01-01T18:43:42.457Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Nice work. We'll hopefully add this to the 80,000 Hours blog sidebar during Q1.

Comment by peter_hartree on What should an effective altruist be committed to? · 2014-12-23T09:11:40.110Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I think there are two questions here:

  1. How much of my time should I allocate to altruistic endeavour?
  2. How should I use the time I’ve allocated to altruistic endeavour?

Effective altruism clearly has a lot to say about (2). It could also say some things about (1), but I don’t think it is obliged to. These look like questions that can be addressed (fairly) independently of one another.

An aside: a weakness of the unqualified phrase “do the most good” is that it blurs these two questions. If you characterise the effective altruist as someone who wants to “do the most good”, it’s easy to give the impression that they are committed to maximising both the effectiveness of their altruistic endeavour and the amount of time they allocate to altruistic endeavour.

I’m quite keen on Rob’s proposed characterisation of an effective altruist, which remains fairly quiet on (1):

Someone who believes that to be a good altruist, you should use evidence and reason to do the most good with your altruistic actions, and puts at least some time or money behind the things they therefore believe will do the most good.

This strikes me as a substantive and inclusive idea. Complementary communities or sub-groups could form around the idea of giving 10%, giving 50%, etc, and effective altruists might be encouraged - but not obliged - to join them.

Much of the discussion in this thread has focussed on the question of which characterisation of effective altruism would have the greater impact potential in the long-run. In particular, whether a more demanding characterisation, likely to limit appeal, might nonetheless have a greater overall impact. I don't have much to add to what's been said, except to flag that an inclusive characterisation is likely to bring more diversity to the community - a quality it's somewhat lacking at present.

Comment by peter_hartree on Generic good advice: do intense exercise often · 2014-12-16T21:56:50.193Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I strongly endorse what Rob said. Intense regular exercise is by far the best productivity and general well-being hack I've ever adopted. In my experience, once you get into it, it's the opposite of a chore.

Second-best hack (for focus): Pomodoro Technique (use Tadam as your timer (Mac only))

Third-best hack (for reducing stress): regular mindfulness meditation (about 10 minutes / day, use Headspace to learn the basics).