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shminux comments on [Link] Reddit, help me find some peace I'm dying young - Less Wrong

22 Post author: Konkvistador 18 August 2012 03:17PM

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Comment author: shminux 18 August 2012 04:24:55PM 7 points [-]

From a hedonistic point of view, what would you propose to be a better way to buy warm fuzzies for those already moved by and emotionally invested in the story?

Comment author: gwern 18 August 2012 05:08:23PM 2 points [-]

Maybe a charity specializing in Africans which will send you pictures of little kids? Another option might be to go to the local pound, play with some of the kittens, and then donate; if warm fuzzy kittens and cats don't get you warm fuzzies, I dunno what will!

(Best of course would be to not fall for the trap in the first place.)

Comment author: Vaniver 18 August 2012 06:48:50PM 13 points [-]

Maybe a charity specializing in Africans which will send you pictures of little kids?

You're missing the similarity drive. Pictures of smiling Africans is different from "this girl thinks like me"- the former are just kindred bodies, the latter are kindred spirits.

Comment author: Konkvistador 18 August 2012 07:20:38PM 6 points [-]

I felt a very strong sense that she is one of us, whoever "us" is

Comment author: KPier 18 August 2012 05:12:25PM 7 points [-]

Not to fall into the "trap" of buying warm fuzzies? Do you advocate a policy of never buying yourself any warm fuzzies, or just of never buying warm fuzzies specifically through donating to charity (because it's easy to trick your brain into believing it just did good)?

Comment author: gwern 18 August 2012 05:23:24PM 8 points [-]

Yes, I am deeply suspicious of Eliezer's post on warm fuzzies vs utilons because while I accept that it can be a good strategy, I am skeptical that it actually is: my suspicion is that for pretty much all people, buying fuzzies just crowds out buying utilons.

For example, I asked Konkvistador on IRC, since he was planning on buying fuzzies by donating to this person, what utilons he was planning on buying, especially since he had just mentioned he had very little money to spare. He replied with something about not eating ice cream and drinking more water.

Comment author: Konkvistador 19 August 2012 08:56:39AM *  1 point [-]

He replied with something about not eating ice cream and drinking more water.

I was going for how this increase in fuzzy spending would be counteracted by me specifically cutting out fuzzy spending elsewhere, so total fuzzy spending remains unchanged by this particular decision.

Also me loosing weight does bring me utility.

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 08:18:51PM 5 points [-]

So now you're passing the buck twice: you're passing the buck from donating to her to actually cutting down on the ice cream, and from there, you're passing the buck to having increased hedons to at some point buying more utilons. Do you see why this sort of reasoning makes me go all -_- ?

Also me loosing weight does bring me utility.

More rationalizing doesn't make me feel better either!

Comment author: Konkvistador 20 August 2012 05:59:09AM *  4 points [-]

More rationalizing doesn't make me feel better either!

You've shamed me not currently donating much to optimal charity. This has caused me to want to lower my current warm fuzzies spending increasing my available financial resources and give more to SIAI (which I currently think is the optimal charity). Thus I've decided to cut the last thing on the list of stuff I enjoy: Ice cream and sweets. The loosing weight comment was indeed searching for a silver lining to cutting it off my list.

If you hadn't shamed me I'd still be happily enjoying my large supply of warm fuzzies from ice cream and other things, but you've unfortunately devalued it depriving me of that fun. That's probably worth it for you since its more than offset by gains in other people.

I am however pretty bothered by how worked up some people where getting over this. I'm pretty certain that if I shared a good deal for buying a huge collection of anime on LessWrong and said that some people might find this valuable and they should totally check it out, no one would bring up optimal charity. I explicitly put this in the same bin as buying anime yet people attack it nevertheless.

Do you see why this sort of reasoning makes me go all -_- ?

I can see why.

Looking at myself from the outside I think I'm clearly defending an emotional attachment to a course of action. But I don't remember deceiving myself or anyone else into thinking this was something worth doing on efficient charity grounds for the good of the world. This was framed as personal expenditures spending and talking about such spending. We do this all the time, check out the fictional book and other media recommendation threads we have running. I don't see optimal charity advocates stomping there haranguing people for consuming such media. Indeed I can take this comparison further in this case and point out she is producing media (videos, writing), lots of people consume media that is available for free yet still donate to the authors for creating such content.

I didn't even expect as many people as have to donate or feel inclined to donate on LessWrong, I was actually hoping more for people here to go and engage the pro-death arguments on reddit than donate themselves. I also made the argument that efficient charity advocacy in that thread (thought perhaps not here) won't result in more efficient charity, but anti-cryonics or pro-death memes might be impacted in a way we'd all like.

Comment author: Decius 19 August 2012 01:38:51AM 0 points [-]

Fuzzies are utilons.

Personally, I prefer Kickstarter projects for my fuzzies, because they typically also come with direct physical rewards.

Comment author: 7F5768D4 19 August 2012 01:37:07AM 3 points [-]

Assuming her story is not a scam, ponder why I find the idea of donating for cute kittens instead of helping another human being facing death and begging for help repugnant.

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 01:48:45AM *  11 points [-]

I have; now please ponder why I might find repugnant the idea of donating towards something as inefficient and low-probability as cryonics rather than the very high probability charities identified by GiveWell, based solely on some identity politics and a Reddit post.

If everyone is going to justify donating to her on fuzzies, then have the guts to defend fuzzies. Fuzzies are not a good way of helping human beings 'facing death': that's the point. Don't equivocate between arguing that donating to her is a good way of making you feel better, and arguing that donating to her is a utilitarianly optimal sort of donation.

Comment author: Dolores1984 19 August 2012 05:27:36PM 7 points [-]

You make an interesting assumption that we care about other people in general. If you assume that we model the human species as a group of people with the bell curve split fifty percent above and below the zero value line symmetrically, then it's perfectly rational to give only to people who are familiar enough with to rank in the positive half.

Note: I do not believe this.

Also, if you actually believe in optimal charity for utilitarian reasons, then abusing people for sub-optimal charity is ridiculous. It does not make them more likely to engage in optimal charity, it makes them more likely not to engage in charity at all. You're shooting your cause in the foot at least as much as they are.

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 06:03:35PM 7 points [-]

It does not make them more likely to engage in optimal charity, it makes them more likely not to engage in charity at all.

It may make them overall less likely to engage in charity, yes, but if they do, it also makes them more likely to engage in optimal charity*. Since optimal charity is something like 2-3 orders of magnitude better than this particular instance of fuzzy charity, I should be willing to cause a lot of overall drops in charity in exchange for diverting a small fraction of that to an optimal charity.

* If it doesn't even do that, though, then I have some serious problems on my hand.

Comment author: Dolores1984 19 August 2012 06:10:12PM 1 point [-]

The next time people are presented with an opportunity for charity(any opportunity), their last memory is now changed from 'hey, I was charitable a couple of months ago, and that was nice' to 'hey, I was charitable a couple of months ago, and this optimal-charity jerk made me feel terrible about it.'

You're making them less likely to give in general, and, by being rude about it, you're also damaging the PR brand of your cause, which will hurt you more than you think. I don't know of any corporation that advertises its product by abusing its customers.

Comment author: J_Taylor 19 August 2012 07:28:08PM 5 points [-]

This is likely to be the case if gwern were to act in such a way in the vast majority of environments. However, in this particular online community, criticizing people for publicly donating to suboptimal charity may well be a fairly good method for gwern to produce utilons.

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 08:10:32PM 4 points [-]

Indeed. Consistent with this situational point, I also recently advised not attempting to go over the The Oatmeal and related forums and evangelizing for optimal charity.

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 06:49:48PM 2 points [-]

Which doesn't address my point, but just reiterates the argument of the first comment.

Comment author: army1987 19 August 2012 10:24:17PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: 7F5768D4 19 August 2012 12:43:53PM *  8 points [-]

I have. You know what, you're perfectly right, there are better ways to help people, and that's even if you're selfish and wish to help groups in which you're likely to find yourself, for instance setting a precedent of people helping needy, terminally ill cryonics patients because "someday I could be in her shoes".

You're also too good at rhetoric for your own good. I wouldn't have been so distracted from the content of your message if you hadn't been acting so aggressive, indignant and grandiloquent in the comments from the beginning on. Why did you have to? Do you feel like the strength of your arguments alone wouldn't suffice? Or were you too engrossed in the game of putting your ideas forward and destroying those on the other side?

Comment author: gwern 19 August 2012 08:28:45PM *  8 points [-]

Why did you have to? Do you feel like the strength of your arguments alone wouldn't suffice?

That's exactly it. This page is stuffed with identity politics, prewritten bottom lines, base-rate neglect, likely sexism, sheer abandonment of optimal charity, scope insensitivity, equivocation & abuse of fuzzies vs utilons, and so on.

This is all LW orthodoxy to the extent there is such a thing, yet even so, the pull of 'dying cute girl wants cryonics! MUST HELP!' is so strong that LW orthodoxy + good rhetoric* still earns me a mix of heavy down and upvotes with the flow of donations apparently unabated.

* I don't think I'm very good at rhetoric, but I'll take your word for it.

Comment author: LukeStebbing 20 August 2012 03:54:23AM 1 point [-]

Do you think your strategy is channeling more money to efficient charities, as opposed to random personal consumption (such as a nice computer, movies, video games, or a personal cryonics policy)?

A more positive approach might work well: donate for fuzzies, but please extrapolate those feelings to many more utilons. I just used this technique to secure far more utilons than I have seen mentioned in this thread, and it seems like it might be the most effective among the LW crowd.

Comment author: shminux 18 August 2012 06:06:42PM 4 points [-]

Not sure if your suggestion would work at this stage. This dying (assuming it's not a scam) person is already real and embedded in their hearts, especially if they read her older posts. They would have to pick cute kittens or sad pictures over a cancer girl, not an obvious decision. Like Murder-Gandhi, they have been irreversibly changed and would require a sobering pill to snap out of it, which they would probably refuse to take.