You Don’t Get To Know What You’re Fighting For

Previously discussed on 2017-03-20

  • It’s a lot easier to know what you’re working against than to know what you’re working for
  • When we work towards a goal, we often find that the goals shifts or evaporates as we work towards it
  • Even if you say you know what you’re fighting for, it’s possible to be wrong
    • Humans have extremely imperfect introspection
    • We should be suspicious of anyone who claims to know their entire preference set
  • Fortunately, you don’t need to have a precise definition of what you’re fighting for in order to be an effective altruist
  • It’s possible to know that a direction is correct, even if you can’t clearly formulate a description of the destination
  • The world is awful enough that most of the time, it suffices to select the action that’s least incorrect and do that

“Should” Considered Harmful

Previously discussed on 2017-04-03

  • The word “should” puts us in direct and unnecessary conflict with ourselves
  • Saying “should” immediately removes the direct motivation for a task and turns it into an obligation
  • If you start to fail at a task that you “should” be succeeding at, you panic, and that only makes the failure worse
  • Think through every alternative branch, even the ones where you fail
    • You don’t have to convince yourself that failure is okay
    • Thinking about failures makes scenarios concrete
    • Concrete scenarios are easier to reason about and guard against
  • Keep a tally of whenever you use the word “should”
  • Restate your obligations without the word “should”

Not Because You “Should”

Previously discussed on 2017-04-03

  • Stop doing things because you “should”
  • “Should” is not a basis for motivation
  • Find the real reasons for performing actions
  • If you can’t find a reason beyond “should”, maybe you don’t need to perform the action
  • The best way to become an altruist is to have a genuine desire to help, not a “should”-based moral obligation

Your “shoulds” are not a duty

Previously discussed on 2017-04-03

  • Objection: If we put our wants on the same scale as our moral obligations, we might make the “wrong” choice
  • If it’s possible for your wants to override your moral obligations, then maybe they’re not really your moral obligations
  • There is not external authority telling you that you should do things
    • “Should” comes from within
    • A real moral commitment doesn’t even feel like a choice - the right thing to do is “obvious” and you go do it

Working yourself ragged is not a virtue

Previously discussed on 2017-04-03

  • There is a pernicious belief that it is unvirtuous to stop working if you’re physically able to continue
  • Your goal is to maximize the integral of productivity, not the derivative
    • Slowing down can be helpful if it allows you to work for longer
  • Your body and mind are limited resources; they need to be used as wisely as anything else