• Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact

  • Persistent Idealism

    August 25th, 2014
    giving  [html]
    When I talk to people about earning to give, it's common to hear worries about "backsliding". Yes, you say you're going to go make a lot of money and donate it, but once you're surrounded by rich coworkers spending heavily on cars, clothes, and nights out, will you follow through? Working at a greedy company in a selfishness-promoting culture you could easily become corrupted and lose initial values and motivation.

    First off, this is a totally reasonable concern. People do change, and we are pulled towards thinking like the people around us. I see two main ways of working against this:

    1. Be public with your giving. Make visible commitments and then list your donations. This means that you can't slowly slip away from giving; either you publish updates saying you're not going to do what you said you would, or you just stop updating and your pages become stale. By making a public promise you've given friends permission to notice that you've stopped and ask "what changed?"
    2. Don't just surround yourself with coworkers. Keep in touch with friends and family. Spend some time with other people in the effective altruism movement. You could throw yourself entirely into your work, maximizing income while sending occasional substantial checks to GiveWell's top picks, but without some ongoing engagement with the community and the research this doesn't seem likely to last.

    One implication of the "won't you drift away" objection, however, is often that if instead of going into earning to give you become an activist then you'll remain true to your values. I'm not so sure about this: many people who are really into activism and radical change in their 20s have become much less ambitious and idealistic by their 30s. You can call it "burning out" or "selling out" but decreasing idealism with age is very common. This doesn't mean people earning to give don't have to worry about losing their motivation—in fact it points the opposite way—but this isn't a danger unique to the "go work at something lucrative" approach. Trying honestly to do the most good possible is far from the default in our society, and wherever you are there's going to be pressure to do the easy thing, the normal thing, and stop putting so much effort into altruism.

    Comment via: google plus, facebook, lesswrong, r/smartgiving

    Recent posts on blogs I like:

    Some reasons to work on productivity and velocity

    A common topic of discussion among my close friends is where the bottlenecks are in our productivity and how we can execute more quickly. This is very different from what I see in my extended social circles, where people commonly say that velocity doesn…

    via Posts on Dan Luu October 15, 2021

    EDT with updating double counts

    I recently got confused thinking about the following case: Calculator bet: I am offered the opportunity to bet on a mathematical statement X to which I initially assign 50% probability (perhaps X = 139926 is a quadratic residue modulo 314159). I have acce…

    via The sideways view October 12, 2021

    Meditations on newborns

    [Content: death.]I wrote most of this a couple of months ago when Nora was a newborn, but the first few months are not that conducive to finishing blog posts. New babies put you into a liminal period, both in your own experience and in how others treat yo…

    via The whole sky October 3, 2021

    more     (via openring)


  • Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact