Wiki Contributions


Could you say a bit more about the way ICF is a special case of IFS? I think I disagree, but also think that it would be interesting to have this view spelled out.

Thanks for spotting these; I've made the changes!

My take on the question

I’m worried this misses nuance, but I basically look at all of this in the following way:

  • Turns out the world might be really weird
  • This means you want people to do weird things with their brains too
  • You teach them skills to do weird stuff with their brains
  • When people are playing around with these skills, they sometimes do unintended weird stuff which is very bad for them

And then the question is, what are the safety rails here/are there differential ways of teaching people to do weird stuff with their brains.

Some of my experience with disorientation:

  • I initially found out about EA from my partner, who had recently found out about it and was excited and not overly subtle in his application of the ideas. Eventually I got argued into a place where it appeared to me I had to either bite bullets I didn’t want to (e.g. ‘no, I don’t care that more children will die of malaria if I do x’) or admit defeat. It didn’t occur to me that I could just say ‘hmm, I don’t know why I still don’t feel happy with this, but I don’t. So I’m not going to change my mind just yet’. I admitted defeat, and did a bunch of EA stuff in a kind of ‘I suppose I should eat my carrots’ way (like doing a job I really didn’t like and spending lots of my other hours on community building for a thing I wasn’t actually excited about).
  • The thing that snapped me out of that wasn’t CFAR, it was reading a novel (D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love), which filled me with a sense that life was too short to be miserable and I should do what I wanted. I did other things for a while.
  • CFAR then indirectly helped me make peace with the fact that part of what I want is to make the actual world better, and now I work on long-termist stuff.
  • My more recent experience of these things was quite deliberately trying to take my work and myself more seriously - recognising that for the most part I was just messing around and trying to try. I knew that taking things more seriously was risky, and I thought that knowing this would be sufficient. But it totally wasn’t, and I made myself very unhappy and stressed and exhausted, before pulling up in an experience that felt very similar to reading Women in Love, but didn’t involve an actual book.
  • Following this, I once again stopped caring about this stuff for a while (and just pitched up to my job 9 to 5 like a normal person). Now I’m starting to be able to care a bit again, and we’ll see.

My guess is that if I had pushed a bit harder in either of the disorientation phases, I would have done myself substantially more damage, and it was good that I threw in the towel early, and just went off to do other things.

I also think that liking novels and poetry was a big aesthetic reason that I didn't want to be around the EA/safety crowd, and I'm really glad that this tension didn't lead to me stopping to read, given how useful reading random novels turned out to be for me.