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7F5768D4 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: 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: [deleted] 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.