20 Comments
Jan 20, 2023Liked by Bentham's Bulldog

It bothers me how bad of a rep EA has gotten with many leftists. Ben Burgis, who I normally like a lot, just had a video with Krystal Ball bashing it and wrote an article criticizing it. I think EA fits very nicely with the goals of socialism. I don't see any conflict with "we should nationalize the heights of the economy and eliminate exploitative work contracts" and "we should donate money for malaria nets." I also think you can both believe in EA and think people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk are scumbags.

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Jan 20, 2023·edited Jan 20, 2023Author

Yeah, it's pretty absurd. Can you link the video and article. Oh also, do you think Gates is a scumbag? I haven't seen good reasons to think that--most of the controversy just seemed to be from weirdo conservatives.

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Jan 20, 2023·edited Jan 20, 2023

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOux9K67hW0

Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall right now: https://jacobin.com/2022/12/effective-altruism-is-no-substitute-for-a-better-society

I think Bill Gates has done a lot of good philanthropy, but he also has done a lot of scummy things. He has been bad on medical intellectual property rights for decades, right up through covid: https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-the-world-loses-under-bill-gates-vaccine-colonialism/

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/14/global-covid-pandemic-response-bill-gates-partners-00053969

He pushed against a much needed waiver for intellectual property rights on covid vaccines. He also supposedly urged Oxford University to give up their open licensing plan, who ended up making a deal with AstraZeneca.

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I've seen both socialists and far-right types like my father trashing Bill Gates. I think this is just what happens to famous people who get close to the political center. You want to escape criticism, keep quiet and spend your entire fortune on yourself.

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To be fair, Elon Musk was on the list of notable EA people until I removed him this week: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/topics/people/history

Which I suspect I've only gotten away with because the things I do or write won't appear on the frontpage anymore (which sucks for all the efforts I put into my writings, but helped me in this case)

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Jan 24, 2023Liked by Bentham's Bulldog

Although it is true that she is dishonest, I do not think that it is the most sickening and dishonest way possible. That seems like an exaggeration

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As a way to vent your frustration, I guess this is fine. As a way to persuade people towards EA, I think the extremely emotional tone of this piece is not so effective.

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Agreed. As a 'woke EA' I think using the phrase "woke white people" in this way will only push people like me away from EA.

EDIT: "Woke" has become a strong signal for rightwing allegiance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0ejAjLkwJQ&ab_channel=VICENews

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>the Holocaust

>the century

... the Holocaust was last century, unless you mean like "within the past century".

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That's what I assumed was meant.

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I'm a left wing effective altruist (for 10 years) and agree with everything McGoey says. It's an excellent peice.

I can understand why you are hurt, but I think you are taking it too personally. She raises some excellent issues and I want to try and help you see her good points.

I'm going to post this anonymously because the EA movement is quite a hostile place to leftists.

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You agree with everything? Really? You agree, for example, with the following claims.

1) Effective altruism is the dumbest idea of the century?

2) "The gist of longtermism is that future people, however distant, have equal moral value to people alive today."

3) "this view has drawn support from reactionary conservatives and tech gurus who flood Bostrom and MacAskill with millions in research grants."

4) That it's a deep puzzle that EA gets so much billionaire funding, when there are literally 4 EA billionaires, and it's well below half a percent of the 2600 or so billionaires.

5) "“Earn to give” is the most recent instantiation of the supposedly rational justification of inequality. It’s the idea that people are morally beholden to maximize wealth however possible so they have more to give, leading in its most extreme interpretation to the insistence there may be no moral “good” after all in trying to save poor lives, because rich people are more “innovative” and thus more worthy."

If so, I'd be interested in hearing what you make of the criticisms that I make of these claims--claims that I regard as so utterly and obviously false that it's shocking they were published. I'm not hurt, it's just that sometimes, when one reads ludicrous propaganda, they get a bit ticked off; this was the case here. I also disagree that EA is quite a hostile place to leftists--as I point out, EA is left of center, many prominent EAs are leftists (I think Habiba Islam, for example), and I have tons of friends who are leftist EAs that don't find it very hostile.

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I do brother. And I think if you give McGoey a chance you'd come to appreciate her point of view, and agree with most of them.

Leftist viewpoints like McGoey's are so needed in this community. It's exactly because EA is so dismissive of these views that this community was blindsided by SBF, by MacAskill's dealings with Musk, by Bostrom's views, by castles etc etc.

I'll reply one by one. Bear with me.

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"McGoey’s next claim is that EA is bad because Nick Bostrom said racist things"

This is not quite right. McGoey is primarily claiming that Bostrom is saying unscientific things. That's her main critique, and its an important one as it suggests there are prominent Effective Altruists who are bad-thinkers.

You are over-moralising McGoey's criticism here when she is primarily making a criticism about Bostrom's scientific/criticial thinking abilities and his underlying worldview.

Quoting from Jacobin:

"the main problem with Bostrom’s email is not his writing style but the worldview underlying it. This is a worldview that draws spurious connections between IQ and intelligence to back up racist assumptions about the world."

Now you say:

"she of course ignores the fact that Bostrom has been criticized by lots of—and perhaps most—EAs" ... "Now, as I’ve already said, I don’t find Bostrom’s comments objectionable".

You're undermining your own argument by saying on one hand EA is condemning Bostrom, but ackownledging that there are parts of EA (of which you are of) that are downplaying the incident.

But in any case, she is more than justified to criticise EA on the basis that unscientific views exist amongs prominent EAs, particularly EAs in the growing longtermist space.

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As for your first claim, given that she objects to Bostrom's email as "back(ing) up racist assumptions about the world," I think my original claim was correct. I'm also not sure what unscientific things Bostrom said. He claimed that he had no idea if there were genetic differences in IQ, given that he hadn't looked into it at all. I think it's fine to be agnostic on issues that you don't look into at all.

I'm not undermining my argument. Two things can be true

1) What Bostrom said was not objectionable.

2) Even if it was objectionable, this wouldn't reflect badly on EA, because EA has mostly condemned it.

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"sure, EA saved hundreds of thousands of lives, is reducing existential threats significantly, and is preventing tons of animals from being horrifically tortured in factory farms, but on the other hand, it gives its institutes self-aggrandizing names."

Yes, EA has done good in some areas. But also it has done enormous amounts of harm through FTX. It has financially ruined often unsophisticated retail investors, costing the government heaps to untangle the mess, released volumes of carbon emissions etc etc. You cannot selectively highlight the uncontroversial good parts of EA as a defense. And indeed McGoey is not even criticising the part of EA that works on Malaria treatments (which unfortunately has become an increasingly smaller part of EA).

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I don't think that the FTX thing was done by EA. If you raise money in an unethical way and then give it to some organization, then it's not the organizations fault, if they had no way of knowing that you were being unethical.

I think that it's a very good thing for people, at the margins, to become EAs--this results in lots of people dedicating their careers or spending their money to do good. I think criticisms of EA should argue that it's bad, at the margins, for a person to be an EA, just like criticisms of Democrats shouldn't just focus on bad things done by some Democrats, but should rather argue why the average person who is on the fence should not be a Democrat. This article doesn't do that at all, and it's thus not a good criticism of EA.

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FTX was definitely motivated by EA, and SBF frequently used EA to launder the reputation of FTX, and justified the existence of FTX on the grounds on the net good the donations were doing.

Macaskill encouraged SBF to enter the crypto space.

Even with your marginal approach, it's clear that if SBF never touched the EA movement, the world would have been better off at the margin.

Like I said, I'm in EA. My problem is not so much EA, but the EA movement failing to be true "EAs" (in my view).

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But everyone in EA agrees that what SBF did was bad. MacAskill may have originally inspired SBF, but he had no way of knowing SBF would engage in unprecedented fraud/

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founding

Mentioned in a hit piece! Congrats!

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