Category Archives: Effective Altruism

An Analysis of the Animal Suffering Averted by Different Levels of Animal Product Restriction

1.Executive Summary

In this essay I attempt to calculate the amounts of animal suffering prevented by different diets that involve restrictions on some animal products (vegetarian, pescetarian, etc.) relative to a diet that restricts consumption of all animal products i.e. veganism. This is an important topic both for deciding what we personally should eat but also what areas should we focus activism in to most effectively reduce animal suffering. The results in terms of suffering averted, on a scale where vegans avert 100% of suffering and Meat Eaters 0%, are:

Meat Eater 0.0%
“Meatless Mondays” 14.3%
Pescetarian 43.8%
Vegetarian 72.1%
Ovo-Vegetarian 72.8%
Lacto-Vegetarian 99.3%
Vegan 100.0%
“Ethical Meat Eater” 90.4%

There are many limitations and possible inaccuracies in the numbers that make up this conclusion so we should include a lot of uncertainty when making decisions based on these numbers. However, if accurate, these results are surprising, and have important implications that I expand on in section 4

2. Definitions

The categories of animal product restriction is use in this essay are:

  • Meat Eater: Eats meat, fish, eggs and milk. Based on the average US consumption [Link]
  • “Meatless Monday”: Same as Meat Eater but with a 1/7 (1 day of the week) reduction in meat and fish.
  • Pescetarian: Does not eat meat. Eats fish, eggs, and milk.
  • Vegetarian: Does not eat meat and fish. Eats eggs and dairy.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian: Does not eat meat, fish and diary. Eats eggs.
  • Lacto-Vegetarian: Eats dairy but does not eat meat, fish and eggs.
  • Vegan: Does not eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs
  • Ethical Meat Eater: Eats beef, pork, and dairy. Does not eat chicken, fish and

The final category, “Ethical Meat Eater”, is based on a hypothetical person that wants to reduce animal suffering but still wants to consume animal products. They choose to only restrict the most harmful animal products, chicken, fish, and eggs, and to make up for this by increasing their consumption of beef pork and dairy.

3. Results

Table 1

Suffering per kg Avg consumption kg(rounded) per year Suffering caused by consumption per year Percent of total suffering caused by diet
Beef 1.2 29 35 1.3%
Pork 3.7 22 80 2.9%
Chicken 46 24 1104 39.7%
Fish 114 7 786 28.3%
Dairy 0.07 269 19 0.7%
Eggs 63 113 7144 27.2%

Column one shows different animal products. Column 2 shows the amount of suffering per kilogram of food produced. These numbers are from Brian Tomasik’s essay How Much Direct Suffering Is Caused by Various Animal Foods?,and is calculated by the following formula:

suffering / kg = [(days of life / animal) + (equivalent days of death pain / animal)] * (suffering / day) / (kg / animal).

Column 3 is the average yearly consumption of the average person from the US taken from chapter two of the Agricultural Fact Book by the US Department of Agriculture. Column 4 is column 2 multiplied by column 3 to arrive at the amount of suffering caused by the yearly consumption of the average US person for each food item. Finally column 5 shows column 4 expressed as a percentages of the total suffering caused by consumption to more clearly show the relative harm caused by consuming each category of animal products. Table 2

Diets Suffering caused Percentage of suffering reduction relative to Meat Eater
Meat Eater 2,779.69 0.0%
“Meatless Mondays” 2,382.59 14.3%
Pescetarian 1,560.81 43.8%
Vegetarian 774.83 72.1%
Ovo-Vegetarian 756.00 72.8%
Lacto-Vegetarian 18.83 99.3%
Vegan 0.00 100.0%
“Ethical Meat Eater” 268 90.7%

In table 2, column 1 shows various possible diets (see Section 2 for descriptions). Column 2 shows the total amount of suffering caused by 1 year of eating the diets, calculated from Table 1. Column 3 shows the percentage of suffering of reduced by someone following that diet, with Meat eating being set at 0% and vegan at 100%.

5. Implications

There are several implications that we can draw from these results, regarding both our personal ethical choices and how to improve the effectiveness of animal welfare advocacy.

  • More than twice as much suffering is prevented by a meat eater becoming vegetarian than a vegetarian becoming vegan. Being vegetarian does about 70% as much good as being vegan. The relative difficulty of convincing someone be vegetarian or vegan is unknown but if it twice as hard or more to make someone be vegan than focusing on advocating vegetarianism may have higher expected utility.
  • There is a very small difference between a Lacto-Vegetarian and a Vegan diet in terms of reduction in suffering. This suggests that for people who find dairy hard to give up relative to other animal products it might be best for them to be Lacto-Vegetarian and try to help animals in other ways, such as convince their friends to reduce their consumption of animal products. It also suggests animal advocates should not focus resources on convincing people to give up dairy relative to other animal products.
  • Fish represent 28.3% of the harm of a meat eating diet, the third highest after chicken and eggs. This suggests that going from a Pescetarian to a Vegetarian diet is most likely worth it unless it would be very hard for them to give up fish. Animal advocacy focusing specifically on encouraging Pescetarians to become vegetarian or having a larger focus on the suffering of fish in aqua farms (which in general is given less attention than factory farming) may also be valuable. (Note: the suffering numbers for fish have the highest amount of uncertainty so we should be more hesitant to draw conclusions form this than the other results.)
  • As we can see from the “Ethical Meat Eater” row, it is possible for someone to maintain roughly the same consumption levels of animal products but reduce the animal suffering they cause by 90% (more than a vegetarian!) simply by choosing which animal products that cause the least suffering, eating more beef, pork and milk, and no chicken, eggs, and fish. This is an outstanding opportunity for people who want to reduce the amount of animal suffering they cause but find it too difficult to be Vegetarian/Vegan. It is also means that focusing animal advocacy on getting people to reduce consumption of the most harmful animal products (chicken, fish, eggs) may have high expected value.

6. Limitations and Inaccuracies

There are many limitations and inaccuracies in these numbers that I will list here:

  • I have not included veal, lamb, turkey or any other animal products not seen in Table 1. According to USDA these are small relative to the amount of other animals consumed (for example veal and lamb together are around one 50th of beef.) If it was included it would likely not have much of an impact but might make the harm of meat slight higher.
  • Tomasik’s essay does not include the suffering of calves and male chicks killed during egg production. If these were included it would most likely slight increase the relative harm of dairy and eggs.
  • These results do not consider other foods derived from animal bodies that vegans do not eat such as gelatine, rennet etc. and also does not include non-edible animal products such as leather and fur. I currently think that these are negligible compared to the animal products in the table so not including them does not substantially change the result.
  • These results just consider the direct animal suffering caused by animal product consumption and not the environmental damage caused by animal farming. I estimate that animal suffering due to the environmental harm caused by animal farming is most likely very small relative to direct animal suffering (I plan to expand on this view in a future blog post) so do not expect this to change the relative values, although it might make beef slightly worse.
  • Determining the suffering caused by eating fish is very challenging. The USDA source does not make distinctions between fish and other types of seafood, some of which, such as oysters and mussels may not experience pain. On the other hand, according to Tomasik’s essay consuming farmed fish, about half of all fish consumed by humans, causes the more suffering than any of the other animal foods. Another factor is that the fish that are not farmed are not caused to exist by humans (unlike cows, pigs, and chickens that would not exist if humans did not farm them) and it is not obvious that the death of a fish caught by humans is significantly worse than being eaten or slowly dying of hunger. Because of this it is possible that eating non-farmed fish is net neutral in terms of animal suffering. My solution to all these uncertain factors is to take the suffering per kg number for salmon (which I think is a more representative figure than catfish) and divide it in half. This is clearly a very rough approximation and I encourage readers to come up with a more precise number for fish suffering per kilogram (I may try to in a future blog post).
  • Tomasik’s essay calculation for the amount of suffering caused by different animal products might be wrong. Currently he adds the pain of death to the amount of days of life and then multiplies the result by the level of suffering per day. But I do not see why the painfulness of death should be affected by the quality of life of days where the animal does not die. It seems to make more sense to multiply the length of life by suffering per day and the after add the additional suffering caused by death. I have decided not to change these numbers for this essay but may update the numbers with a different calculation.

How Much Should Vegans Focus on Purity?

I recently found out that most brands of condoms and birth control pills are not vegan. They both contain animal products and are tested on animals. Sigh. One more way I will never be a perfect vegan. But I’m okay with that. I think focusing on vegan purism unhelpful, unrealistic and harmful. It is not an effective way to help animals.

Firstly, when you start cutting out animal products from your diet you quickly hit a point of diminishing returns in reduction of animal suffering. This is because of the lesser known animal products that vegans try to avoid like casein, cochineal, gelatin, isinglass, lanolin (thank you Wikipedia) are by-products of the meat industry. Factory farmers only make a fraction of their profits from these products, the majority comes from the more well know products like meat, eggs, and dairy. If no one ate these by-products*, there would still be factory farming, it would just be slightly less profitable meaning the meat would be more expensive and a smaller percentage of animals would be saved. If everyone stopped eating meat but continued to be fine eating by-products, factory farms only of making money would be by selling these by-products. This would mean there fixed costs would remain about the same, but there revenue would be much smaller, causing the by-products to be so expensive that cheaper non animals products alternatives would likely be used instead.

Secondly, and tying into the first point, it is completely unrealistic to be 100% pure vegan. Unfortunately, animal products or products that involved animal cruelty are everywhere. Sugar, orange juice, [more stuff here] wheat and harvested grain kill field mice and other wildlife, almost ever pharmaceutical drug or medical producer was at some point tested on animals.

The time requirements and reduction of quality of life to be 100% pure vegan is much higher than just not eating meat, dairy, and eggs. And while it makes me so happy that people are willing to work that hard to help animals, I don’t think it the most effective use of their altruistic budget. One way of helping animals that I think is extremely neglected in the vegan community is donating money to effective animal charities. An example would be Vegan Outreach that produces leaflets and coordinates their distribution by volunteers at university campuses. I have not yet researched the exact numbers, but it is entire possible that donating a few hundred dollars to an effective animal charity would cause the same reduction in animal suffering as being vegan for a year. So if your primary concern is reducing animal suffering, I think this is a much better path to go down than vegan purism.

Another reason to avoid purism is the risk of relapse. For psychological reason humans tend to have an all or nothing mentality to begin vegetarian or vegan. I don’t know anyone who only eats 3 meat meals a week. When my friend quit being vegetarian, she didn’t try having meat a few days of the week to see if she could manage that, she went straight back to full meat consumption. There are also terrifying statistics on vegetarian/vegan recidivism. According to a study done by the Humane Research Council “86% of people who go vegetarian lapse back into meat-eating, and 70% of those who go vegan lapse.” Even adjusting for people who go vegetarian for health reasons and then decide to stop, those are scary numbers. So if there is even a small chance that trying to be pure vegan will make you burnout and give up and go back to eating meat, then you shouldn’t do it. Long term thinking is important here, think about you impact over your whole life time not just this year.

The final reason why I think vegan purism is unproductive is how it effects the perceptions of meat eaters. Converting meat eaters to veganism should be a big priority for all vegans. If you convert one meat eater to being vegan for the rest of their life you have doubled the impact you have on animal welfare from being vegan yourself. So anything that makes the meat eaters in your life less interest in veganism, for example the vegans they know obsessing over minute traces of animal products or refusing to eat birthday cake at an office party, will probably do much more harm to animals than buying something with gelatine in it once a month.

I think the intentions of purist vegans are positive reinforcement worthy but I think they are mistaken that vegan purism is the best way to help animals and that it is in fact unproductive relative to a more relaxed form veganism. But different things work for different people so if you feel vegan purism is right for you than go for it. Just remember to focus on what will help animals, not what will make you personally feel better. Valuing the personal good feeling you get from vegan purism over animals lives isn’t that different to what meat eaters do.

* To avoid misinterpretation, I am not making a argument from universalizability. You should base your actions on their marginal effect rather than the hypothetical world where everyone does the same as you. I am talking about what would happen if everyone stopped eating animal by-products to illustrate the economic affect more clearly

Why I Am A Vegan (Short Version)

A commenter asked me to make a post about why I am veg*n/think factory farming is immoral. I am planning to write a super long post on this topic in the future but that probably won’t be posted for ages so here is a quick rundown.

Firstly, suffering is bad. If a person is punched in the face chemicals will be released in their brain that is experienced from the inside as pain. They will also likely feel fear at being punched in the future and other negative emotions. This is bad and I don’t want it to happen. Although I don’t think the reduction of suffering is the only valuable thing I think it is really important. If I could press a button that would protect people from being punched in the face I would.

Secondly, discriminating against people based on irrelevant differences is wrong. I mean wrong in more of an epistemic sense than a moral one. An example of an irrelevant difference is distance . In general if someone is suffering physically near to you, you would feel a stronger desire to help them then if they were on  the other side of the planet or the universe. While this can be justified by practical arguments (e.g. it is easier to help people nearer to you than people who are further away), and it is possible to create a mind that does intrinsically devalue other minds as they are moved further away, I think most humans would on reflection not endorse valuing people differently based on the persons physical proximity. Other examples of irrelevant difference include gender, race, sexuality. Keep in mind that there are also relevant distinctions that can affect morality. For example rocks can’t experience pain, so punching a rock is not wrong

So let’s apply these two beliefs/concepts to animals. The questions we should be asking are one, do animals suffer, and two, is their any relevant difference between human and non human animals that can justify not caring about animal suffering?

Firstly, it seems obvious that animals in factory farms suffer. Some people I talk to actually don’t know this which I always find surprising because even when I ate meat I knew exactly the conditions that the animals were being kept in. If you are not aware of the suffering caused to animals by factory farming watch this video for a quick look.

Secondly,I don’t think any of the differences between human animals and non human animals mean that suffering to the latter group is not bad. The experience of pain is chemically identical in humans and pigs,. There is no reason not to think that the feeling you feel when you are punched in the face is any different from what a pig feels when it gets kicked.

A good thought experiment at this point is to imagine the person you love most being infected with a disease. The disease doesn’t kill them but does change them. There are many different strains of the disease and they all change the infected patients in different ways in different ways. Many of these changes don’t change the moral value of your loved one. For example if the disease changed the skin colour or sexuality of your loved one, it wouldn’t suddenly be okay to stop treating them and let them die.

But what if the disease took your loved one ability to speak? Not just their vocal cords but the part of their brain that can process complex language? Would that make it okay for me to to torture, kill and eat them? What if the disease lowered their intelligence to the level of a two year old human? Would that make it okay for me to torture kill and eat them? What if it changed their appearance so they no longer physical looked human? Would that make it okay for me to torture kill and eat them?

Obviously some changes would justify lowering the rights of you loved one (if they have an intelligence of a two year old they shouldn’t be able to vote) but I am not advocating for animals having equal rights to humans, just for us to not torture and kill them.

So to summarize, animals suffer just like humans do, and there is no reason to care about their suffering less, just like there is no reason to care about the lives of black people less than white people.

So after we decide that animals suffering is bad, how can we reduce it? Well one of the easiest ways is to stop buying animals products. By buying meat you are paying a group of people to breed, torture and kill animals and then deliver them to you so you can eat them. If you change your purchasing habits the amount of animals that they torture and kill will be lower.

Going vegan is much easier than most people think. You don’t need to make the transition right away. I would recommend first becoming a vegetarian for at least 6 months while you research and learn more about how to help animals and eat a healthy vegan diet. If going vegetarian seems like to much to start with 2 days a week of eating vegetarian, and then after a few weeks go to three days and so on. If you think “I could never go vegetarian because i love bacon to much” Why not try to cut out all meat except bacon? Giving up 90% of your meat intake is almost as good as giving up all meat.

So that is about all i have to say. In a future post I will go into much more detail and try to address all common counter arguments and give much more advice on the practical side of how to become vegan

A Moral Dilemma Dilemma

The following quote by Peter Singer presents a moral thought experiment:

To challenge my students to think about the ethics of what we owe to people in need, I ask them to imagine that their route to the university takes them past a shallow pond. One morning, I say to them, you notice a child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. To wade in and pull the child out would be easy but it will mean that you get your clothes wet and muddy, and by the time you go home and change you will have missed your first class.

I then ask the students: do you have any obligation to rescue the child? Unanimously, the students say they do. The importance of saving a child so far outweighs the cost of getting one’s clothes muddy and missing a class, that they refuse to consider it any kind of excuse for not saving the child. Does it make a difference, I ask, that there are other people walking past the pond who would equally be able to rescue the child but are not doing so? No, the students reply, the fact that others are not doing what they ought to do is no reason why I should not do what I ought to do.

Once we are all clear about our obligations to rescue the drowning child in front of us, I ask: would it make any difference if the child were far away, in another country perhaps, but similarly in danger of death, and equally within your means to save, at no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to yourself? Virtually all agree that distance and nationality make no moral difference to the situation. I then point out that we are all in that situation of the person passing the shallow pond: we can all save lives of people, both children and adults, who would otherwise die, and we can do so at a very small cost to us: the cost of a new CD, a shirt or a night out at a restaurant or concert, can mean the difference between life and death to more than one person somewhere in the world – and overseas aid agencies like Oxfam overcome the problem of acting at a distance

So Singer presents two situations, saving a drowning child and donating to a charity to save the life of a child in a developing country, and then argues that we should take our moral intuitions in the first case and apply them to the second case because the differences, such as physical location, are not morally relevant.

This is the basic strategy I have been using for as long as  can remember when thinking about moral questions. If two intuitions contradict, I think of hypothetical situations and use them to analyses what it is I value. Another example of this is the trolly problem.

Unfortunately I am feeling less confident in this method than I used to. My problem is that there is no good way of knowing which direction you should universalize your moral intuitions/values in. What if a student responded to Peter Singer with:

Well clearly there is a contradiction between my intuitions that I should save the child and my intuition that I am not obligated to give to charity. So I will universalism my intuitions and because there is no morally relevant difference between the child in the pond and the children in developing countries I clearly shouldn’t care about the former, just like I don’t seem to care about latter.

Another way of stating this problem comes from a less wrong comment that I read a while ago but can’t find anymore. The user was saying how he cares a lot when he hears about one person dying or being injured but doesn’t seem to care as much when he here about a million people dying (definitely not a million times as much). The commenter was wondering whether they should “Shut Up and Multiply” meaning that they should take the intuitive value that they assigns to the individual and multiply that by a million to find the actual value of the million or whether they should “Shut up and Divide” meaning they should take the value of the million and divide it by a million to reach the actual value of the individual.

One way I can think of solving this is by letting the stronger intuitions win. But often intuitions are very close to being equal (otherwise the contradiction would have been solved by now) and I am worried that initial conditions in my reflection (the react details of the hypothetical, how it would affect my other beliefs and life decisions, even how I am feeling that day) may have large affects on the conclusions I reach.

Another way is to go with the “Near” intuitions, the intuitions that are generated by using smaller numbers, more real world/practical examples etc over the “Far” intuitions, the opposite of near intuitions based on the justification that we are better suited to reason about things Near us due to evolution . This is a good approximation of what i have already been doing so has the emotional upside of agreeing with most of my  intuitive reasoning I have so far done. But my moral intuitions that suffering is bad was also produced by evolution, and I don’t believe that the source of someone’s values alone should affect whether or not they endorse them.

Finally, I can just accept that just in the same way that values are subjective, so if one person values happiness and another disvalues happiness neither is wrong but just have different subjective preferences, strategies for reflecting on on values are also neither right and wrong but are determined by subjective preferences. I rejected objective morality to long ago to remember if I felt any emotional loss at no longer being able to tell people who want to torture  and kill babies that they are wrong, but I think I feel a similar feeling in not being able to tell someone who chooses to not ignore the child in the pond/the “Shut Up and Divide” side that they are wrong.

But I want my beliefs to match reality, not what I wish reality was like.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty for being born with so much more than others”

A friend of mine once had a semi emotional breakdown about the fact that the world is so horrible, there are so many people suffering etc. In a way I was kind of insecure about this, because I consider myself to care more about that kind of thing than most people and I am doing more to help then she is, yet I don’t experience these negative emotions to the same degree she did. But then I reminded myself that 1) outwards burst of emotion like the one she had aren’t an accurate sign of a person’s emotional state and 2) it doesn’t matter how strongly I feel about something or how much I want something beyond how much that motivates me to act. What matters is what I actually do to steer the future in a better direction.

A friend of hers told her (paraphrased obviously):

“You should feel guilty about the fact that you have so much more than other people. You didn’t choose to be more in to a rich country with well off parents etc.”

(Her emotions at the time seemed to be more of the form of “I have so much, others have so little, I feel guilty” whereas mine are usually closer to “others have so little, actually, no one really has anything compared to the ideal situation, I need to do everything I can to make it better”)

When she told me about this I disagreed. Firstly I don’t have a guilt based moral system, but even if I did this argument wouldn’t completely resolve me of my hypothetical guilt. The example I gave was to imagine that everyone is created in a box, all able to see each others boxes but unable to leave our them. Also each box is a different size and has different amounts of food and other resources delivered to the box each day. In this scenario it would indeed be pointless to feel guilty for being created in a larger, more resource filled box that others that you can observe.

But if the scenario was changed so that you could divert resources from your box to other boxes and chose not to, than clearly you should feel guilty because you are choosing for them to not have the resources they need more than you.

Clearly we happen to be in the universe where you can divert resources from your box to others.

But I added, to help her through the emotional negatives she was going through, the way I get around thoughts of “oh god I’m not doing enough I’m bad arrrg self loathing” is to remind myself that I am much more motivated by positive emotions rather than negative emotions.

Example when I was in high school and I had an assignment, if it was behind schedule and I was worried I wouldn’t finish it on time I would hide in my room under my covers and not do anything. but if I think I can achieve my goal of completing the assignment I am much more likely to try and actually do it. In the same way if every time I thought about EA stuff I felt bad for not doing more I would just not dor EA stuff or not think about EA stuff.

There is a part of me that is worried that this isn’t true and that I am just rationalizing to avoid going down the unpleasant path of guilt as a motivator even if that path does more good. I guess we we’ll see what happens.

How I feel when I talk to Non Effective Altruists (Part 2)

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post and once again is about my personal emotional reaction rather than actual issues, but tomorrows will post will actually have content.

I often see people at shopping centers that come up to people and ask them to donate to a specific charity that they work for. I have run through what I would say to one of if they approached me. I would tell them the difference between passive and active selection of charities and how there charities are probably less effective than the charities recommended by GiveWell etc.

But at the same time I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this. Partly because of the reason I talked about in yesterday’s post, but also because I once did what they are doing and it was one of the worst emotional experiences of my life. For an assignment in year 12 me and some friends went to a bus interchange and asked people to fill out surveys and donate to a mental health charity. I have never felt that much constant rejection. Every person I would walk up to would either ignore me or lie that they were busy or just flat out refuse to donate. I directly saw people not caring about doing good. even when someone presented them with the opportunity It was horrible. I ended up giving up and just sitting down for the last hour while my friends kept trying.

I honestly don’t think I would be able to do that full time, even for an EA charity. I guess I would get better at it and develop tactics to deal with it I had too. But at the time it was just unbearable. So I have a lot of respect for people who do that every day. Which makes the fact that they are doing it for non EA charities even worse.

Also obviously the fact that people not wanting to talk to me for a few hours is one of the worst experiences have had shows exactly how fortunate I am and how high my standard of living and general emotional levels are in comparison to the majority of other people, which is a reminder of why I need to help people. And given how much more I could be doing I don’t feel any sense of superiority to the people that didn’t donate.

How I feel when I talk to Non Effective Altruists

This post is not intended as an argument in favour of effective altruism (although I intended to write those posts in the future) but instead is about my emotional experience as an Effective Altruist talking to non-effective altruists about EA ideas.

I have many friends who raise money for charity. They do Relay for Life, or Live Below the Line, or 48 Hour Famine. They want to help people (or from a hansonian perspective they want to signal helping people.) And they do. But they don’t help people as much as they can with the effort they are putting in. And they don’t know that. And I do. And I want to explain this to them. But it’s hard.

I think part of the reason is that because effective altruism is so intuitive for me. It feels almost condescending telling people about it. I didn’t independently come up with the entirety of the collection of ideas effective altruism as a concept consists of (although I do remember googling “effective charities” and finding GiveWell and then from there effective altruism) but after I first read them, it just seem obvious. I find it very difficult to understand how people cannot agree with them. There are good worthwhile critiques of the effective altruism movement and ideas but central tenets such as “If you want to do good, figure out which option does the most good and choose based on that criteria, rather than another criteria” are so obvious that writing them out like that makes me feel like I’m talking to a five year old.

But a larger part is that I just feel bad telling people that thing they are good that they are not. I’m trying to analyse why, but it’s hard to break the feeling down. My brain seems to be suggesting it’s like telling a child that Santa doesn’t exist, but I don’t think that’s quite right.

Sometimes I talk about how some charities are more effective than others. They will say “yeah, like how some charities will spend 20% of the money on the staff” and then I have to explain that that is only one of several measures of a charities effectiveness, and often can be misleading etc. And the look on their face. Its like they don’t understand. I know this is partly because I need to improve my communications skills (part of the reason I am writing this blog) but it seems like a different kind of look to when I try to explain an philosophical or economic concept to someone. Or maybe just my internal emotional reaction is different.

I am writing about his because I want to get over it. Because it lowers the amount of good I can do. When people talk to me about charity I should be able to effectively communicate EA concepts without having unproductive negative emotional reactions. If I can cause one person to be as effective altruistic as me (which is not much yet as I am a full time student that ) then I have doubled the amount if good I would otherwise have caused.

So my ideas are to desensitize myself to this feeling my incrementally building up to it/forcing myself to do it. Next time I see a facebook post about raising money for a non EA charity I want to be able to send a polite, non-confrontational message to the person suggesting that they consider donating for a more effective charity. I’ll update you if I make progress in this area.