I found that this episode increased my faith in the EA community a little bit. One of my caricatures of other EAs when I first found the community was “it’s good these people exist but they’d make terrible friends because they’re so impartial they’d leave me in a rut to squeeze the epsilon out of an EV that bears a resemblance to a probability.”
It was a bit of an (irrational?) fear that EAs and EA orgs were constituted by hyper-utilitarians that’d sacrifice their friends / employees if the felicific calculus didn’t add up.
But most people I’ve met in (at least my section of) the EA community have been unusually kind and compassionate people. Some I am very glad to call my friends. And I don’t think they would jettison me if I gained a debilitating illness, which makes me more motivated to do good.
Note: Of course there’s instrumental utilitarian reasons to act in a manner more consistent with commonsense decency.
This made me want to hear more narratives and cases like this that give a helpful but honest report of what someone’s experience of mental health was like. I’ve thus far avoided the extant literature out of a fear that reading / listening to cases of people experience severe mental illness would degrade my own well-being.
In particular, I’d like to hear about other people in the EA community and hear more stories (there’ve kind of been a few on the forum) who weren’t as lucky as Howie.
Instrumental utilitarian reasoning aside, it makes sense that people whose common traits include:
a) An unusually high degree of altruism, often driven by compassion, and
b) A feeling that only a small number of people share some of their fundamental values
...would be exceptionally altruistic and compassionate towards the people around them, and also feel a special sense of kinship with people who share said values (even if those people weren’t their friends).
I understand where the “terrible friends” caricature comes from, but I feel like it’s a meta-caricature that goes too many levels deep: people in EA usually aren’t that impartial, because it’s very hard for humans to do that, and the “unusually high compassion” trait tends to pull a lot more weight (at least in my experience — like any community, EA hasn’t been a good place for some people, and indeed, not all are as lucky as Howie).