effective altruism

sufi

lala
i only heard about this in the context of FTX - it sounds like a load of old cobblers to me i must say
(and always in lower case for some reason?)
this article is outstandingly badly written drivel
 
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Clinamenic

θερμοδυναμικός καπιταλιστής
it's like the trickle down effect institutionalised isnt it?
From what I understand, EA seems like secular successor to western Christian morality, but with more of a solutions-oriented pragmatism. Like its all an optimization problem, a perspective which I can relate to.
 

borzoi

Well-known member
someone i know works in one of the EA organizations and from what I understand they've had a Reformation-like split between the people who want to distribute mosquito nets and water purifiers and the people who want to upload human consciousness into the cloud
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
weird bunch of people, or at least, the one time i interacted with them they were. i went to a talk by the effective altruism guysb in oxford more than a decade ago. one of the nice things about oxford as a town is that if you dug into the university webpages you could find a very extensive programme of talks about all kinds of things, and although it was clear that they didn't really plan on attracting people from outside of the university, no-one was going to stop you if you just turned up, so you could quite regularly find yourself in some lecture on a tuesday lunchtime or whatever. obviously oxford is one of those places which is important for elite formation and i feel like its blindingly obvious that all kinds of people recognise that its a place where you can change the minds of powerful people while they're very young, so for someone like the effective altrusist guys its a natural target. after all you basically need to be pretty well off to start thinking about giving 10% of your income to 'good causes'. or alternatively very altruistic i suppose, but most of the people involve are probably the former.
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
anyway when i went to that talk, it was a slick marketing pitch, slide decks and a very constructed argument. a bit like a Ted Talk kind of thing where it's all very put together and aimed at convincing rather than getting into the ambiguities. ie, a bit boring.

they had a very strong bias towards quantification as you might expect. which is fine and probably makes sense if the whole idea is something like Giving What We Can, where it's about convincing rich people to give their cash to something that seems to work rather than just what some rich person thinks sounds like a good idea.

but its a very stupid way to think about the world and how to change it. maybe the effective altruists have moved on by now. but at that time i felt there was this massive ignorance about politics and governance, and also about how change in other countries led by outsiders works. it was idealistic in short. but idealistic in a way that felt very much like the nerdy parts of anglo elites trying to get involved in real world things that they know nothing about. approaching something like poverty like they would approach building a bridge or making a computation work.
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
in general though, and apologies for sounding like i've spent too long on twitter, but that kind of thing is an expression of how a lot of well meaning and nice people have this developed vs developing country way of looking at the world. which is one of those ways of thinking about things which is fine for most people but quite inaccurate, and which really starts to make people confused if it comes into contact with reality
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
in a way that felt very much like the nerdy parts of anglo elites trying to get involved in real world things that they know nothing about. approaching something like poverty like they would approach building a bridge or making a computation work
It's very closely tied, no surprise, to rationalism, i.e. the people who believe that if you can just get rid of your cognitive biases etc you can make more "correct" decisions. Which is both a crazy premise - how can you ever discover all your cognitive biases from within a subjective consciousness - and an extremely computer engineer way of viewing the world. The optimize everything approach, which doesn't work because many things simply cannot be optimized the way an algorithm can.

On contact with reality it is, unsurprisingly, often disastrous. I have to deal with some people like that for work and it's almost impossible to explain that physical things just don't work like software.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Effective altruism is like the best case scenario for that worldview bc it's at least, if sincere, well-intentioned
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Its main philosophical issue I see, and what causes that Reformation style split between do gooders and prevent existential threat AI types, is how do you decide what the goal of optimization should be? Greater human happiness presumably, but what is that, and who are you or I or anyone to make that decision for anyone besides ourselves? People have been asking what it is to live a good life for thousands of years and we're no closer to an answer

I'd definitely take the mosquito net people over the cloud consciousness types in that regard
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
It's very closely tied, no surprise, to rationalism, i.e. the people who believe that if you can just get rid of your cognitive biases etc you can make more "correct" decisions. Which is both a crazy premise - how can you ever discover all your cognitive biases from within a subjective consciousness - and an extremely computer engineer way of viewing the world. The optimize everything approach, which doesn't work because many things simply cannot be optimized the way an algorithm can.

On contact with reality it is, unsurprisingly, often disastrous. I have to deal with some people like that for work and it's almost impossible to explain that physical things just don't work like software.
It really reminds me of Brexit, in some ways. The idealisation which fails miserably when it touches the real. I just put some links in the Crypto thread that are related because of the SBF link.
 
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