Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

daenerys comments on The curse of identity - Less Wrong

125 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 17 November 2011 07:28PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (298)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2011 09:20:59PM 5 points [-]

Also, a proposed solution in regards to "How to be Altruistic" (in a way that DOESN'T make you feel like you've "been good enough that they've earned the right to be a little selfish.")

I think that the best way to avoid this pitfall is to incorporate whatever altruism that you want to do into your way of life, so that it doesn't feel like a one-time shot.

Example- Instead of donating a lump sum of $50 to the charity of your choice, see if there's a way to have a $1 donation made automatically every week.

Vegetarianism is another example. Once you actually become a vegetarian you don't feel like you're doing any further good just by continuing to do what you always do.

I don't have any evidence for it, just personal experience.

Comment author: homunq 18 November 2011 05:35:26AM 4 points [-]

Matthew 6:3 seems apropos.

Comment author: Nornagest 17 November 2011 10:16:20PM *  2 points [-]

That sounds like it'd work, but at the cost of eliminating most of the fuzzies you'd get from your altruism and most of your donation's social signaling value. (The tax paperwork might also be more complicated if you're claiming a deduction, but that's less important.) As such I suspect it'd be a hard sell for anyone whose altruism isn't a terminal value but is rather a consequence of one of those functions, which I expect is a substantial fraction of all the altruists out there. Seems like it has the potential to be a good idea for LWers, though.

Setting it up to mail you periodic summaries of your donations over some conveniently large period of time would fix this, but would also have the potential to reestablish the "earned selfishness" problem we're trying to avoid.

As an aside, setting up that kind of repeating donation isn't likely to be that difficult. Most banks will allow you to schedule repeating payments to some entity even if you aren't being billed; I pay my dojo dues that way.

Comment author: dlthomas 17 November 2011 10:40:25PM 0 points [-]

That sounds like it'd work, but at the cost of eliminating most of the fuzzies you'd get from your altruism and most of your donation's social signaling value.

Doesn't that inherently make it a stronger signal when observed?

Comment author: Nornagest 17 November 2011 10:44:00PM *  5 points [-]

Choosing to donate in a self-thankless way might in general, but in this case I think that's dominated by the convenience factor and per-donation triviality. Most people would be probably be less impressed by someone who's donated $50 every month for the last year by some automatic process than by someone who's made a $500 lump donation: the former is higher in absolute terms and makes for a stabler cash flow to the charity, but also carries a fairly strong message of "I don't want to be inconvenienced by my altruism".

Comment author: dlthomas 17 November 2011 10:53:29PM 0 points [-]

Interesting, and quite possible correct.