Huw, Darius, excellent post!
sometimes there are issues that people still want to discuss, such as whether these interventions neglect systemic change
What are your go-to resources for answering concerns about neglecting systemic change? Are there any particular articles or posts you point people to?
I am personally very interested in cause areas like global poverty, so it is great to see more people wanting to discuss the related issues in depth.
Nevertheless, I strongly support the definition of EA as a question (how can we use our resources to help others the most?) and that makes me not want to tag myself as a “[enter category here] EA” (e.g. “near-term EA”, “far-future EA”...).
In practical terms, the above leads me to enjoy my views being challenged by people who have come to different conclusions and I tend to favour a “portfolio approach” to doing good, somewhat along the lines of Open Phil’s “worldview diversification”.
Regarding discussion, there should be great spaces for both the meta topics and the cause-specific ones. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could host all those discussions under the same roof? Maybe this thread can be used as an input for the upcoming EA Forum 2.0. The feature request would be something like “make it easy to host and find worldview-specific discussions”.
Thanks, Carl. I fully agree: if we are convinced it is essential that we act now to counter existential risks, we must definitely do that.
My question is more theoretical (feel free to not continue the exchange if you find this less interesting). Imagine we lived in a world just like ours but where the development of AI, global pandemics, etc. are just not possible: for whatever reason, those huge risks are just not there. An argument in favour of weighting the long-term future heavily could still be valid (there could be many more people alive in the future and therefore a great potential for either flourishing or suffering). But how should we weight that against the responsibility to help people alive today, since we are the only ones who can do it (future generations will not be able to replace us in that role)?
I think there is an 11th reason why someone may want to work on near-term causes: while we may be replaceable by the next generations when it comes to working on the long-term future, we are irreplaceable when it comes to helping people / sentient beings who are alive today. In other words: influencing what may happen 100 years from now can be done by us, our children, our grand-children and so on; however, only we can help say the 700 million people living in extreme poverty today.
I have not come across the counter-arguments for this one: has it been discussed on previous posts or related material? Or maybe it is a basic question in moral philosophy 101 and I am just not knowledgeable enough :-)
Good points. If I were doing a write up on this subject it would be something like this:
“As the years go by, you will likely go through stages during which you cannot commit as much time or other resources to EA. This is natural and you should not interpret lower-commitment stages as failures: the goal is to maximize your lifetime contributions and that will require balancing EA with other goals and demands. However, there is a risk that you may drift away from EA permanently if your engagement is too low for a long period of time. Here are some tools you can use to prevent that from happening:”
Great posts, Joey and Darius!
I’d like to introduce a few considerations as an “older” EA (I am 43 now) :
Scope of measurement: Joey’s post was based on 5 year data. As Joey mentioned, “it would take a long time to get good data”. However, it may well be that expanding the time scope would yield very different results. It is possible that a graph plotting a typical EA’s degree of involvement/commitment with the movement would not look like a horizontal line but rather like a zigzag. I base this on purely anecdotal evidence, but I have seen many people (including myself) recover interests, hobbies, passions, etc. once their children are older. I am quite new to the movement, but there is no way that 10 years ago I would have put in the time I am now devoting to EA. If I had started my involvement in college —supposing EA had been around—, you could have seen a sharp decline during my thirties (and tag that as value drift)… without knowing there would be a sharp increase in my forties.
Expectations: This is related to my previous point. Is it optimal to expect a constant involvement/commitment with the movement? As EAs, we should think of maximizing our lifetime contributions. Keeping the initial engagement levels constant sounds good in theory, but it may not be the best strategy in the long run (e.g. potentially leading to burnout, etc). Maybe we should think of “engagement fluctuations” as something natural and to be expected instead of something dangerous that must be fought against.
EA interaction styles: If and as the median age of the community goes up, we may need to adapt the ways in which we interact (or rather add to the existing ones). It can be much harder for people with full-time jobs and children to attend regular meetings or late afternoon “socials”. How can we make it easier for people that have very strong demands on their time to stay involved without feeling that they are missing out or that they just can’t cope with everything? I don’t have an answer right now, but I think this is worth exploring.
The overall idea here is that instead of fighting an uneven involvement/commitment across time it may be better to actually plan for it and find ways of accommodating it within a “lifetime contribution strategy”. It may well be that there is a minimum threshold below which people completely abandon EA. If that it so I suggest we think of ways of making it easy for people to stay above that threshold at times when other parts of their lives are especially demanding.