Maybe I’m missing the point and the post is just saying that there’s a cool thing you can do with other EAs, not trying to claim that it’s an effectively altruistic use of resources.
Definitely more so the former than the latter, e.g. “I’m posting here because 6 EA-aligned people are planning on attending our first retreats (June 5-8 and June 9-12, 2019) so far.”
Like Milan I think there are good arguments for psychedelics as Cause X, and nested in that good arguments for why starting a retreat could be an effective thing to do. But the general purpose of this post was to let people know this is happening, along with what seems like relevant context.
it’s pretty unclear how EAs going on a psychedelic retreat is an effective way to make progress in these fields.
FWIW, a couple of the EA-aligned people who’ve applied have stated they want to attend for explicitly EA-related reasons. We keep applicant data confidential so I can’t go into detail, but some reasons an EA *might* want to attend:
Creative problem-solving related to a cause area
Gaining clarity on altruistic career choice
Improvements in mental health (I think you may be underrating the degree to which this can increase personal capacity, or make you a better or more effective person, as you put it).
(or increases your risk of psychosis)
The risk is only if you have a family history and are predisposed. Even so, there’s not much evidence for this—it’s an exclusion criteria in psychedelic research studies because the researchers are (understandably) extremely risk-averse and being as careful as possible. I’ve looked closely at the data on this and spoken to several researchers about it because it’s relevant to someone close to me.
Re: psychedelics & psychosis risk, see Krebs & Johansen 2013, a study of National Survey on Drug Use and Health data (n = 130,152) which found:
21,967 respondents (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes.
Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.
Unfortunately, it’s not a randomized, forward-looking trial. I personally give high-quality retrospective survey research like this some weight when thinking through the risks associated with psychedelics. (And more research is needed, as always.)
See also Krebs & Johansen 2015 for similar results with a different data set:
Using a new data set consisting of 135,095 randomly selected United States adults, including 19,299 psychedelic users, we examine the associations between psychedelic use and mental health. After adjusting for sociodemographics, other drug use and childhood depression, we found no significant associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and increased likelihood of past year serious psychological distress, mental health treatment, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicide attempt, depression and anxiety. We failed to find evidence that psychedelic use is an independent risk factor for mental health problems.
Right. The stuff about psychedelics as Cause X was maybe a bit of a red herring. You probably know how to sell your business much better than I do, but something which I think is undervalued in general is simply opening your pitch with why exactly you think someone should care about your thing. I actually hadn’t considered creative problem-solving or career choice as reasons to go on this retreat.
My earlier comment was a reply to the challenge of ‘how this post is substantively different from previous content like...’ and this now seems fairly obvious, so I probably have little more useful to say :)
Fair enough! I probably should have pointed out those reasons in the original post (although I did link to the paper on psychedelics and creative problem-solving). I probably also unconsciously assumed those reasons are more obvious to most people than they are, because I’m thinking about this stuff all the time.