I’m going to write about these questions:
Analysing the question
My last question here is arguably a complicated version of “Should I do good?”, which I have an immediate intuitive answer to - yes!
But that doesn’t account for the full question - about doing good in “the world at large”. I guess that’s really a question of “is the world good?”, because I live in the world and of course need it to continue existing and I want to see it improve. I was talking about Dominique Francon recently, she had concluded that the world was bad and so she shouldn’t try to help. She just amused herself, and when she met someone good she couldn’t believe it at first and even when she couldn’t deny it any more she went on trying to stop him from doing good because she didn’t think the world was worth it.
My point is: I’m questioning if the world is good for a reason. I think this is some elements of a past me that was very cynical and pessimistic and hopeless. I think that past me had decided the world was bad and it wasn’t worth trying to improve. I can’t say I think the world is all good now, but I do think that it can be improved. Maybe it’s a losing battle, but if it’s worth trying to do anything it’s worth trying to improve the world.
So I think it’s important to do some good in the world. I don’t necessarily mean that in some sort of charitable sense (though I’m not ruling that out). Creating good ideas, spreading good ideas, protecting people, improving health, helping productivity, entertaining/making people happy (in a good way, I don’t consider e.g. exploiting people with bad gambling/drug/sex habits to be a good thing even though it may make them happy).
I think how much someone gets paid is a rough estimate of how much good they’re doing/how much impact they’re having, as long as it isn’t exploiting/destroying/degrading or in some other way immoral.
I looked for some other ideas or articles around the subject.
Unidentified Cause X
I think this is interesting (that people in general may have some sort of major moral flaw and no-one has even thought of it yet). I think choosing a life path in such a way that your life is compatible with being radically altered is valuable - e.g. if someone chose a career but found out after a decade of work that it was actually really bad, it would be even worse if they were so entrenched in that career that it would nearly destroy the rest of their life to leave it. I think academics, career politicians and influencers can suffer from this problem, becoming dependent on the system to the point where they struggle to find other kinds of work that allow them to perform vital functions like supporting their family.
(reminds me of The Matrix quote, “And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”)
I think EA is actually creating “cause X” with their position on animals.
From the article:
The persecution of animals today, what we see over and over again is how easy it is for people to be oblivious to serious moral problems.
They seem to be oblivious to the moral problem of calling the way animals are treated as “persecution”. They hold back humanity (the only good that is known to exist), waste effort protecting biological automata from “suffering” that hampers human progress with medicine and food creation. The kind of idea that humans and animals are so similar is also pretty bad, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it results in them making a bunch of other mistakes like how they think about the mind and emotions, and how they could find analogies in animals and other life forms to take lessons from.
Office job vs effective career
Another article from EA:
This is not so bad in it’s conclusions, though it still bases quite a few conclusions just on feelings. I think in principle I agree with the comparison of “office job” vs “effective career”, that either choice is doing good, and that if someone picks “effective career” to have more impact but ends up unhappy with the work it’s a mistake (as Elliot explained well). Though I think I wouldn’t ask EA what type of career would be effective or what causes are good to donate to.
I’m getting the impression that EA content is typically bad in having some serious mistakes as a premise or emotional reasoning. It’s alarming how many people (such as Corentin) commit drastic amounts of effort to them or their causes. I’m yet to turn up a result from EA that I think is very well thought out.
Good effective careers
I think this is an interesting article:
It’s not so relevant to me (not US citizen) but it lists some career choices which can have good positive impact and are in some cases also well paid on average, I think these are better places to focus if someone wants to pursue an “effective career” specifically. Working for charities is often not a very high-skill job, and people who have the options and aspiration to aim for a more skilled career should do so.
Earn to give as a way to do good
I think this article is also interesting and talks about why to “earn to give” (or as mentioned earlier “office job” instead of “effective career”):
I think it makes a lot of good points. I like this one in particular, as it allows much more flexibility and error-correction, and is one of the many under-acknowledged benefits of capitalism:
The third and most important consideration is that charities vary tremendously in the amount of good they do with the money they receive. For example, it costs about $40,000 to train and provide a guide dog for one person, but it costs less than $25 to cure one person of sight-destroying trachoma. For the cost of improving the life of one person with blindness, you can cure 1,000 people of it.
This matters because if you decide to work in the charity sector, you’re rather limited. You can only change jobs so many times, and it’s unlikely that you can work for only the very best charities. In contrast, if you earn to give, you can donate anywhere, preferably to the most cost-effective charities, and change your donations as often as you like.
I think the section on employment biases is interesting. I think it highlights some deeper issues that can be easy to overlook in choosing a career, particularly stress, location and actual buying power.
Lots of high paying jobs are very demanding in terms of stress, hours and performance requirements. This is really important to consider when choosing a career, as if someone has major life goals (e.g. raising children) a career like that will get in the way.
Considering actual buying power and location is really important - even staying within one’s country of origin, there can be different locations to live and work that may give better buying power even at lower incomes.
- Doing good is important, but there are lots of mistaken ideas about what counts as “good”. Lots of careers can do good in ways that people might not realise or consider “good” because of misconceptions about what is a good cause.
- A career which has some flexibility - that is not entrenching and allows career flexibility - avoids the catastrophic risk of being stuck doing something that you later realise is bad.
- Doing work that doesn’t make much difference (as long as it isn’t actively bad) still leaves the possibly more effective option of donating to worthwhile causes.
- It’s important to consider other goals as some careers are incompatible with other major aspirations in life owing to time/stress/location/commute demands.
- Location can make a huge difference to the living costs, and lower paid less demanding jobs can still result in better buying power with certain changes in location, or even because some jobs have lifestyle requirements. So it’s important to decide if changing location is an option, or if not why not, and look at other associated costs that come with a job.
This is my goal met for the week.