YB

Yarrow B.

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Bio

Pronouns: she/her or they/them.

I got interested in EA back before it was called EA, back before Giving What We Can had a website. Later on, I got involved in my university EA group and helped run it for a few years. Now I’m trying to figure out where EA can fit into my life these days and what it means to me.

Comments
85

A lot of people seem to think EA is this singular, exceptional, incomparable thing, unlike other movements or ideologies or group identities. But I think EA is not special or exceptional or unique at all. It is just another human enterprise with many of the flaws that human enterprises typically have.

I studied philosophy at university and, by the time I was done, I still loved philosophy (maybe just as much or even more than ever), but developed many deep frustrations and critiques with philosophy, and a little bit of cynicism or skepticism toward the field, or some aspects of it. One thing I wished philosophers and philosophy teachers asked themselves more and more pointedly was, "Why is this worth thinking about?" or "Am I wasting my time with this?”. (I imagine if you had a glass of wine or some weed in a private place with any random philosophy PhD student or professor and asked them about the structural problems in their field, there’s a good chance they would have a lot to complain about.)

At university, I got intensely involved with political activism to the point of burnout and mental destabilization. I still believe very strongly in many of the basic ideas I believed in then (e.g. trans rights, economic justice) — maybe even more so, given the subsequent years I’ve had to think on it — but I was scared and disturbed by how amped up and out of control people can get when they spend so much time talking to people in their weird little in-group and have a strong sense of self-righteousness. Very relevant to EA.

EA is something like a combination of philosophy and political activism. When I got involved in my local EA community circa 2015, from the jump, I had a certain wariness about how something like this might go astray. One thing that bothered me then and I still don’t quite get is why people want to say "I’m an EA" or say things like "EAs like to help other EAs". Why is this part of your personal identity? Maybe it’s fine and normal to want to be part of a group or to label yourself and I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s largely personal preference.

A thing that weirds me out today is when I see EAs having a weird superiority complex, like the apparent idea that EAs, exceptionally, care about truth and know how to get it, whereas I guess everyone else are just lying fools.

I don’t remember where I read this, but someone pointed out that a lot of EAs just like talking about philosophy and futurism, and then for some reason feel the need to justify that it’s important. (Maybe it feels wasteful or indulgent otherwise? Maybe pleasure is a sin?) My feeling is that people should just be able to enjoy talking about philosophy and futurism, just like they enjoy sports or video games or playing in a band, and that shouldn’t be frowned upon. In fact, it should be looked on as an enriching and somewhat admirable part of life. You don’t have to furiously justify things along the lines of, “Well, if my essay has a 1 in a billion chance of making things go 0.01% better for 10^52 future lives…”

You can devote yourself to an institution, an organization, a movement, an idea or ideal or ideology, a community, a subculture, a career, a cause, or a hobby and not elevate it to the point of "we are the special few this sick, sad world needs". It can just be fallible humans trying their best, not being perfect, not always knowing for sure what’s true, not always knowing for sure what the right thing to do is.

To the extent that feels uncomfortable or even intolerable to some people, or just not good enough, I wonder if what’s missing in their lives is just being loved for who they really are, without feeling the need to prove that they deserve to be loved.

Unfortunately, I believe there’s more terminological confusion between us than I currently have the energy to try to clear up.

Who said anything about unregulated?

But how is public ownership of firms compatible with ownership of firms being exchanged on markets?

A benign singleton might do that. Even if the odds are against this, it doesn’t seem wildly unlikely. The same is true of space settlement. There may well be unforeseen developments with the same effect. We could reasonably assign a subjective probability of five or ten percent to the possibility that something will ensure our long-term survival.

Huh? Why five percent? Why not 0.5%? Why not 50%?

And OP discusses market socialist systems which allow capital markets but not private capital!

How do you have capital markets without private capital?

To clarify, in the post, I discussed a hypothetical form of market socialism without capital markets.

I agree these definitions are the most canonical ones, but their existence has not prevented the terminological confusion we presently find ourselves in. Participatory socialism and social democracy, for example, do not entail the public ownership of the means of production.

"I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them."

–Baruch Spinoza

Does this apply to things other than existential risk?

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