April Fool’s Day Is Very Serious Business

Thus it was spoken in a recent 80,000 podcast with Lord MacAskill:

Will: …I think EA can just be quite a stressful place. So like I made this commitment because I wanted to start actually publishing some stuff to write on the forum. I think after my first post, or my first real post which I think was age-weighted voting, I had an anxiety dream every evening. Like every night. Where I would wake up and my dreams would be the most literal anxiety dreams you could imagine, which are like people talking and people being like, “Yeah, we lost all the respect for you after you wrote that post”.

Rob: That’s incredible, wow!

Will: Yeah and I’d wake up and that’s for a whole week.

Rob: That is so dark.

Will: I know. And if this is like how I feel and similarly–

Rob: How does it feel as a new member of this forum if you write something that has a mistake in it.

Will: Exactly.

In his noted talk on Creativity (transcript), Silly Walks Minister John Cleese states:

[Psychologist Donald MacKinnon] showed that the most creative [scientists, architects, engineers] had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood — “a way of operating” — which allowed their natural creativity to function.

In fact, MacKinnon described this particular facility as an ability to play.

Indeed he described the most creative (when in this mood) as being childlike. For they were able to play with ideas… to explore them… not for any immediate practical purpose but just for enjoyment. Play for its own sake.


...humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems, no matter how ‘serious’ they may be.

According to a poll following the most recent papal conclave:

What do you estimate is the probability (in %) that there exists a cause which ought to receive over 20% of EA resources (time, money, etc.), but currently receives little attention?

Of 25 total responses:

Mean: 42.6% probability

Median: 36.5%

Lower quartile: 20%

Upper quartile: 70%

I hope you see what I’m starting to get at by quoting all of these authorities. Note especially the Minister’s remarks.

Effective Altruism may be leaving massive world-improving opportunities on the table due to being insufficiently serious.

Two weeks hence, on April Fool’s Day, I move we endeavor to fix this grave problem with a Seriousness Tournament. My proposed rules are as follows:

  1. Your post title shall start with “New Top EA Cause:”

  2. Make an edit to mention the seriousness of the day and/​or link to this post on April 2, so future readers will know how incredibly serious you were being

  3. More rules forthcoming to disqualify any entry that is not my own

I’ve retitled last year’s post on global poor’s dire need for flying cars to conform with the proposed rules.

Seriousness Tournament entries may distinguish themselves on the basis of being

  1. Funny

  2. Ridiculous

  3. Actually a plausible Top EA Cause

Ideally all three at once.

No formal judging process will take place for this event. But remember, this is serious business. Very serious.

EDIT: Tournament happened here