It is with sadness and regret of the loss of life that I inform you that Kathy Forth has passed away.
She will be remembered at the solstices and forever in our hearts as someone trying to make the world a better place in the ways they believe are most important.
This post is to serve as a eulogy. I know she didn't always agree and she didn't always make friends. Despite that she was a part of this community. I would appreciate anyone interested in saying kind words to do so below. Anyone unwilling to say kindness can keep it to themselves.
Requiem Mass service to be held on Saturday April 21, 2018 at 10:00 am CST at the following location:
The Church Of St. Francis
Liberal Catholic Church
12 School St.
Villa Park, Il. 60181
Please message me if you would like to be added to the private EA self-help group on Facebook, which provides a space for folks in the the EA community to get support and discuss sensitive issues.
At the same time as wishing that more could have been done I know that many of us tried very hard.
How do you mean? Did they need funds for medical treatment?
I only hope that this will encourage you to reach out to each other, more than before. We need to support each other. We need to try. That's all we can do.
She asked my advice on how to do creative work on AI safety, on facebook. I gave her advice as best I could.
She seemed earnest and nice. I am sorry for your loss.
We disagreed a great deal, but with her unwavering epistemic virtue, she won my respect and my admiration. She was part of my something to protect.
"[The rationalist community] is [my] genuine ethnicity if not something more like a family. A super dysfunctional highly abusive family."
"I just want all this unearned contempt to stop, and all this ignorance which opens the doors to predators to end, and I want people to recognize me for who I am and what I can accomplish. [it] just feels so impossible."
"I keep thinking that if the other guys would just learn emotional intelligence we could all stop being so fucking alone."
"The lack of personhood in my life is killing me."
Let's change for her, please?
My guess is that you're writing this comment both from a place of mourning Kathy's death, honouring her life, and wanting our community to be a better place that doesn't make people feel lonely and isolated, and I really respect that.
That being said, I think that the sentiment "Person X who just killed themself wanted us to be more Y, and maybe they wouldn't have killed themself if we had been more Y, we should be more Y" is really dangerous. It means that if somebody is considering killing themself, they have a sense that that's a decent way to effect some change that they want to make in the world - perhaps even a more efficient way than continuing to live. I think that this could push vulnerable people to be more likely to kill themselves, which would be a tragic outcome. Perhaps indeed we should be more Y, but I think that pushes to become more Y should absolutely not be connected to or caused by the suicides of Y advocates.
If people are desperate enough over X thing such that they're willing to kill themselves to communicate it's importance, then I don't think I'm willing to commit to ignoring that information. Taking away desperate people's last option to send a message they think might finally be heard doesn't sound like it's helping - they're still in a dire situation they'd be willing to die to change.
This isn't like refusing to give candy to a child of they cry, suicide is a very very real cost you have to actually and honestly be suffering a lot to consider paying, given you never get to see the results.
It's pretty standard to respond to the suicides of Y victims by rallying to reduce Y.
Making a commitment not to notice when something drives a person to suicide seems like it would probably be a monumental mistake.
This is a simplistic monocausal model of suicide that is not only incorrect but dangerous and goes against the CDC suicide prevention guidelines.
Any suicide in general, and this one in particular, definitely has multiple causes. I'm really sorry if I gave the opposite impression.
But I think it's reasonable and potentially important to respond to a suicide by looking into those causes and trying to reduce them.
To be more object-level:
To return to the meta level, I'm also very concerned by the fact that this has been taken up by the anti-rationalist crowd and this may be making some people defensive. I don't recall anyone saying that we should be so concerned about suicide contagion as to ignore the object-level issues raised completely when Aaron Swartz committed suicide, for example. Maybe we should have been! But the fact that we as a community potentially failed or simply could have done better here means that we should be more careful about dismissing this, not less.
I think we do disagree on if it's a good idea to widely spread as a message "HEY SUICIDAL PEOPLE HAVE YOU REALIZED THAT IF YOU KILL YOURSELF EVERYONE WILL SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT YOU AND WORK ON SOLVING PROBLEMS YOU CARE ABOUT LET’S MAKE SURE TO HIGHLIGHT THIS EXTENSIVELY".
I think we agree on this and we only miscommunicated with each other. Aumann points for both of us, I guess.
Rest in peace.
I knew her from our adventures in the Effective Altruist Minecraft world, and from her tireless fight for fixing the problems that she saw in the world. I admire her willingness to actually put in the work to fix the world, as well as her willingness to confront difficult ideas. She also had a good imagination for how to make our Minecraft world feel more like home.
Kathy help start the Giving What We Can Melbourne community in 2013. The community and the mission was very important to her.
What's the average bus factor in the typical EA local community (either at Melbourne or elsewhere)? EA is still a very small and fragile movement, so we're very nuch at the point where loss of even one locally-knowledgeable person can actually be a very serious setback for the movement.
Posting this here for cross-reference:
If I Can’t Have Me, No One Can (a)
[Content warning: a suicide note that deals heavily with sexual violence]