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EA and Responding to Famous Authors

I quit the Effective Altruism forum due to a new rule requiring all new posts and comments be basically put in the public domain without copyright, so anyone could e.g. sell a book of my posts without my consent (they’d just have to give attribution). More info. I had a bunch of draft posts, so I’m posting some of them here with minimal editing. In general, I’m not going to submit them as link posts at EA myself. If you think they should be shared with EA as link posts, please do it yourself. I’m happy for other people to share links to my work at EA or on social media. Please share stuff in whatever ways you think are good to do.

I think EA has the resources to attempt to respond to every intellectual who sold over 100,000 books in English which make arguments that contradict EA. EA could write rebuttals to all popular, well known rival positions that are written in books. You could start with the authors who sold over a million books.

There are major downsides to using popularity as your only criterion for what to respond to. It’s important to also have ways that you respond to unpopular criticism. But responding to influential criticism makes sense because people know about it and just ignoring it makes it look like you don’t care to consider other ideas or have no answers.

Answering the arguments of popular authors could be one project, of 10+, in which EA attempts to engage with alternative ideas and argue its case.

EA claims to be committed to rationality but it seems more interested in getting a bunch of charity projects underway and/or funded better ASAP instead of taking the time to first do extensive rational analysis to figure out the right ideas to guide charity.

I understand not wanting to get caught up in doing planning forever and having decision paralysis, but where is the reasonably complete planning and debating that seems adequate to get started based on?

For example, it seems unreasonable to me to start an altruist movement without addressing Ayn Rand’s criticisms of altruism. Where are the serious essays summarizing, analyzing and refuting her arguments about altruism? She sold many millions of books. Where are the debates with anyone from ARI or the invitations for any online Objectivists who are interested to come debate with EA? Objectivism has a lot of fans today who are interested in rationality and debate (or at least claim to be), so ignoring them instead of writing anything that could change their minds seems bad. And being encouraging of discussion with them, instead of discouraging, would make sense and be more rational. (I’m aware that they aren’t doing better. They aren’t asking EA’s to come debate them, hosting more rational debates, writing articles refuting EA, etc. IMO both groups are not doing very well and there’s big room for improvement. I’ve tried to talk to Objectivists to get them to improve before and it didn’t work. Overall, although I’m a big fan of Ayn Rand, I think Objectivist communities today are less open to critical discussion and dissent than EA is.)

Elliot Temple on December 2, 2022


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