Will reading "Towards Ineffective Altruism" change my mind?
Jan 1, 2023
Article: https://reboothq.substack.com/p/ineffective-altruism?s=r When the article came out, I read this Twitter thread criticizing it but didn't read the article itself (yes, I'm embarrassed about that): https://mobile.twitter.com/ns_whit/status/1528813493532577792 . I don't remember the details. I'm going to read the article now because it came up in conversation with someone who thought it was good. About me: I've been casually in EA for half a decade. I usually give "large-ish" amounts to GiveWell and GiveDirectly and sometimes Tostan, and sometimes much smaller amounts to local charities that my friends like. I don't really think about EA much. I already think that causes that are hard to measure are overlooked by EA. I already think that it's good to donate to charities where I have special knowledge due to them being local or focused on my personal interests. I just haven't done this because it's a lot of work to evaluate charities. This market will resolve to YES if I donate significantly less this year to the large charities I've supported before, instead allocating that money to charities that are not usually considered effective, and wish I had done this earlier. YES if I would want to do this but don't because I feel obligated to continue donating a consistent amount to GiveDirectly each year. YES if I otherwise feel that the article has had a significant effect on my beliefs or values. Additionally donating a large-ish amount to "ineffective" charities without reducing my other donations does not count. If I have unexpected financial hardship, I will resolve this market according to my best judgement on what I would have done if I could have donated this year.
https://mobile.twitter.com/LeahLibresco/status/1505248726620774405 thought this thread might be somewhat relevant
Subthread which may also be intriguing: https://mobile.twitter.com/suzania/status/1505246264853737481 This is less related to the altruism aspect, and she speaks about some Christian-specific tendencies. But what she’s saying still feels relevant to the things in the Ineffective Altruism article (particularly the line about donating $10 to a homeless person); this question of “is it ok/good to invest in those near to us? Do we have a more particular obligation to them that we are tempted to overlook when we do these analyses about charity and altruism?”
Thanks for the link! I mostly agree that it's rather longtermism focused; Scott makes a great point that xrisk is worth worrying about even ignoring longtermism https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/KDjEogAqWNTdddF9g/long-termism-vs-existential-risk. Plus, a lot of the rest of the article feels like an isolated demand for rigor. That said, this part did strike me as true and worth contemplating: > Ineffective altruism... allows us to get outside of the concept of altruism entirely — a concept that feels limiting in its focus on the actions of the individual — and instead consider a paradigm of collective, democratic mutual aid. I think a fairly good critique of EA is that we spend a bunch of time considering what individuals should do, and less time thinking about how organizations and groups of individuals should do (and what they actually do). See the emphasis on individual donations, and on changing your career ala 80k hours. My observation is also that individuals within EA are quite accomplished and impressive; but EA orgs on the whole do not strike me as especially competent nor efficient relative to eg my experiences in startups and big tech.
Skimming the article, it appears to be a critique of longtermism in particular, not EA in general. If you're currently focused on global health and poverty via organizations like GiveWell and GiveDirectly, it doesn't look to me like this article is even trying to change your mind there. (The article is also bad, and misrepresents EA and longtermism in several ways. In particular, the most popular "longtermist" interventions like pandemic prevention and AI safety are likely to benefit people who are already alive today, so it doesn't make much sense to critique them as prioritizing future lives at the cost of present ones.)