Showing posts from December, 2017

Why I am Donating to Wild Animal Suffering Research

This post discusses my donations, as part of a pledge to give 10% of my monthly income to highly effective charities. To learn why thousands of people have taken the pledge and to take it, visit

A dead turtle appeared on the shores of Playa Dorada in the Galapagos last month. The turtle, Benny, had died a few hours earlier, and his body was cold. Not too long ago Benny had been a baby with tiny little webbed hands and eyes that barely opened. You can see videos online of baby turtles just like Benny hatching and their little bodies moving oh-so-slowly as they meet the world for the first time. Benny had been one of them. Then he grew up and lived in the waters of the Galapagos–until one day, when he ate a jellyfish called "hielo," or ice, that poisoned him. Benny convulsed in severe pain until he suffered an abrupt death.
How did Benny die?
The species of the jellyfish that Benny eat is rapidly expanding thanks to the warming global climate.Benny could not …

Things I've Changed My Mind on This Year:

1) The importance of artificial general intelligence:

I'd previously been dismissive of superintelligence as being something altruists should focus on, but that was in large part motivated reasoning. I read books like Superintelligenceand Global Catastrophic Risks, and I knew their theses were right initially but would not admit it to myself. With time, though I came to see that I was resisting the conclusion that superintelligence is an important priority mostly because it was uncomfortable. Now I recognize that it is potentially the most important problem and want to explore opportunities to contribute.

2) The economic argument for animal welfare reforms:

One of the reasons often given for supporting animal welfare reforms to those who want to see fewer (read: no) animals tortured for food is that welfare reforms make the industry less profitable, cutting down on the numbers of animals raised. I did not think this effect was strong enough to be worth the effort activists put into …

Is Peace the Cause of Political Polarization?

Everybody likes to attribute bad trends to other bad trends they don't like. Liberals may say political polarization is caused by inequality, while conservatives may say it's caused by the decline in religion. Recently I've been wondering if a good trend caused a bad trend: is political polarization just a result of decades without a major war mobilization?

A lot of egalitarian reforms and social projects seem to happen during or around wartime. The U.S. abolished slavery during the Civil War, gave women the right to vote on the heels of World War I, and World War II had all sorts of social effects from racially integrated units to gay soldiers to women in factories. When I read about the history of Rome, I remember great land reforms tending to coincide with major wars. (Lex Licinia Sextia, the first major land reform, happened on the coattails of the Roman-Etruscan wars.) The idea of war triggering social egalitarianism also fits with folk psychology ideas of how people b…