I’m in favor of totally resolving human greed and hatred, but this doesn’t seem tractable to me either. (It is literally possible to do it within an individual, through a particular path, but it’s not the path most choose.)
Instead it seems more tractable to create and promote systems and cultures that heavily incentivize moderating greed and hate.
Yeah, it seems like … the rationalization might be sort of a cover-story for certain bad habits or patterns that they don’t want to fix in themselves. shrug. I’m not a huge fan.
We are also the closest we’ve ever been in the history of the world to potentially destroying all life. 😐 I view our current situation as much worse than it has ever been.
And we also had no system for handling the work that people didn’t want to do (I didn’t buy groceries because it was my job; I went to the store because the fridge was empty and I wanted to help) or how to handle people saying that they were going to do something and then not following through.
I feel vaguely frustrated that this is such a common problem.
Lack of Hufflepuff virtues. Shakes head.
I had explored enough career paths at this point to recognize that most of my opportunities to positively affect the world were limited by the organizations or institutions that were already established or by my own ability to affect them from within, and I didn’t like my prospects. Government agencies, nonprofits with limited scope, politicians, think tanks—I couldn’t find any employers that matched my level of ambition while also being self-reflective and self-critical and thus willing and able to adjust and pivot as they proactively learned more about the shape of the problems in the world (there are a lot of constraints out there).
An important paragraph.
I haven’t personally looked around, but it’s not very surprising to me that someone would say this.
There are a few abnormally effective people: Elon Musk is the celebrity poster child of effectiveness—love him or hate him, it’s really impressive what he’s been able to accomplish.
Yeah I just disagree.
I think you should only count as effective if you’re helping the problems of the world. I’m pretty sure he’s only making them worse. There are lots of institutions and organizations that are highly effective… at making things worse. This is not that impressive to me.
Prospective funders reported that the bottleneck was a lack of promising projects. As far as we could tell, the lack of good projects is a result of a lack of effective, benevolent, and coordinated people.It doesn’t seem like there’s a lack of benevolence or altruism—there are plenty of people who want to solve these problems, but either they can’t figure out what to do, or what they try never really works, or they settle for tackling smaller issues that they think they can actually resolve.
Prospective funders reported that the bottleneck was a lack of promising projects. As far as we could tell, the lack of good projects is a result of a lack of effective, benevolent, and coordinated people.
It doesn’t seem like there’s a lack of benevolence or altruism—there are plenty of people who want to solve these problems, but either they can’t figure out what to do, or what they try never really works, or they settle for tackling smaller issues that they think they can actually resolve.
This is extremely well stated.
Elon Musk challenging the UN to show how they could end world hunger with $6B.
Given what I’m learning about Modern Slavery, whenever more resource is injected into corrupt systems, the bottom is always just exploited for even more. You can give these people money, but if they’re inside a deeply corrupt system, everything they have will be taken almost immediately.
The root cause is human greed and hatred. Without solving these, interventions will always be bandaid solutions.
Short and immediate responses as I read some of this post about Leverage:
When I first encountered the group, it was clear that something different was going on. They were pretty much crap at any of the conservation behaviors that in my circles meant that you cared about improving the state of the world: they didn’t recycle, they’d turn on the kitchen sink and then walk away to go get something, they’d hold the fridge door wide open while they tried to carefully answer a question about the limited types of goals they’d seen in people’s motivational setups—I don’t even know if they were registered to vote! But that was almost symbolic of their determination to not flinch away from the size and complexity of the problems that humanity doesn’t seem to be on track to solving: they weren’t pretending that taking public transport and reusing shopping bags would handle problems of such magnitude, they weren’t resigned to never solving them or in denial that they existed—they were spending all their attention genuinely trying to figure out whether there might be any counterintuitive ways that they could end up successfully addressing these very real and very hard problems.
I appreciate this reframing of this behavior as being especially determined.
I also think we might end up turning such behaviors into a kind of social signal that reads to our ingroup as focused, determined, and doing it for real. Which would be equally bad as using recycling as a social signal (since we’ve lost the actual good thing in favor of signaling). But this would also actually be slightly worse imo because you’re hitting the ‘wastefulness’ button as a favorable signal, so it becomes better to waste ‘noticeably’ or excessively.
What we do with our minds matters at every level. I think conspicuous wastefulness is not a good thing for a mind to train itself to do.
As far as the reaction goes, going 2 1⁄2 weeks without talking to her and getting her side of the story of what happened seems pretty bad. Both for reasons of lacking the information and because it results in her not getting support to process the experience.
I straightforwardly agree.
Having an environment where trainees feel like they don’t have the resources to walk out and go home seems very problematic.
I straightforwardly agree. Although … I’m not sure what you’re referring to by bringing this up.
In general we try to avoid taking in apprentices who are low on resources or lack places to go if they need to leave.
Thanks, that’s helpful. I think you’re mostly right in that MAPLE / Oak messed up in some big ways.
Including: Oak not sending the right apprenticeship agreement form to begin with. One was sent, but it didn’t include the clause about no romantic or sexual contact with other trainees. This was a major lapse. (I believe it said to avoid sexual harassment.) Somehow this hadn’t really become an issue before this. In any case, the form has been corrected.
MAPLE leadership doesn’t put the onus on Shekinah to have known about this missing clause. Also she didn’t sign the agreement until later, so there’s no blame toward her for not following those particular rules.
Note the agreement signed by apprentices is different from the ones residents sign, with the resident agreement being much longer and more extensive. The excerpts are from the resident agreement, not the apprentice agreement. I don’t think there is an intention to hide the agreements? I at least didn’t consider publishing them, just didn’t cross my mind.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ If we published the current version, it wouldn’t match the ones Oak signed anyway because those are now a year out of date, so I don’t know if that would be confusing? The excerpts were parts that haven’t changed.
MAPLE is currently working on, but still generally lacks robust systems, for ensuring branches all have the same protocols for things like the admissions process. This project is in the works, and slow improvements are being made. In the meantime, Oak has been on hiatus for about a year.
When it became clear that Oak was not in a good place a year ago, Oak was shut down and has been more or less closed ever since. MAPLE / CEDAR acted relatively quickly to take power away from Oak.
The teacher of Oak is no longer teaching or in the program. He is out in the world, his own person. The Director of Oak was removed from power. He left the program for most of 2021 and is now back at MAPLE for continued training and has only the responsibility of handling IT. He helps cook and clean too. The Acting Director is also not in the program. Oak was pretty much disassembled.
Oak is unlikely to reopen anytime soon, but the current plan is to reopen in 2022 with much more CEDAR oversight. It also wouldn’t be a monastic training container, but more of a community center / group house where people live, work, and meditate together. There wouldn’t really be a ‘teacher’ involved as far as I understand. Many things would be different.
(The reason Shekinah says Oak ‘reinstated’ the Director is that … well at first, Oak independently decided to remove him from his position as soon as they knew any sexual encounter had happened—although the details hadn’t really been investigated since this was soon after. They made an internal announcement about it. Then they realized they needed to wait for the Board’s decision, and so did a rewind. The Board then later officially took him out of power.)
The internal investigation mentioned in the document is not to investigate Oak. Oak was already dealt with. None of those people have power in the org. The sexual assault allegation needs to be handled separately, and we are still seeking sane ways for doing that. If you have specific ideas, we’re open to them.
The internal investigation mentioned in the doc is mainly around gathering surveys and stories from former trainees—to collect data about their time in the training and what kinds of things they experienced during and after. Much of the actual work of this will be conducted by people other than Keshin Dee. Keshin will be overseeing the work.
We will eventually publish a letter about this part. The details are still being decided.
Would you be wiling to share what specifically updated you in that direction?
I asked the author of this post whether they knew blueiris. He said he did not.
The Monastic Academy has released a Q&A to clarify some claims mentioned in the post. Feel free to take a look. I’m happy to personally field questions. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the reactions to this post baffle and astound me. I don’t know what to say. These reactions feel totally lacking in empathy and compassion. And also like they don’t understand the grieving process.
It seems like a reasonable response to cry with grief over the suffering and murder of beings. ?
If someone started crying about this in front of me, my response would be one of sympathy. It just seems like such a reasonable thing to be upset about! I’ve cried about the Holocaust, about factory farming, about civilizational inadequacy, about nuking Japan, etc. These things are tragic. Grief doesn’t necessarily wait for the family dinner to be over or for people to first be comfortable with your crying.
It seems like a stupid suggestion to avoid all situations where one might encounter a factory-farmed animal?? Like what are you advocating? Avoid being with friends and family if you expect to be upset because ‘being upset’ is ‘bad’? You are confused. “Bad feelings” are not inherently “bad”. This is a weird map-territory confusion.
The tactic of ‘avoid things that make you feel bad’ is a terrible one. Equating ‘feeling bad’ with ‘something bad happening’ is also terrible. It is entirely possible to be very happy deep down while one is grieving. Grieving is a healthy, good, and normal human reaction. Even at Thanksgiving, over a dead turkey.
I was actually thinking of writing about a concept I have called ‘cult brain’ but this post covers the basic idea. I’m glad! Nice work, Kaj.
One thing that I want to see more of in this post is treating cultists as agentic. I think for some reason we tend to treat them as non-agentic and helpless, and this frustrates me to no end. Potential cultists have the ability to do something about their own minds and how they use them.
Leaders should notice their own reactions and behaviors in response to cultists, but I think it becomes codependent the moment a leader takes responsibility for a cultist’s behavior or thought process.
Claim: Many things are happening on a below-consciousness level that ‘matter’ to a person. And if you disrupted those things without changing a person’s subjective experience of them (or did it without their notice), this should still count as harm.
This idea that ‘harm’ and the level of that harm is mostly a matter of the subjective experience of that harm goes against my model of trauma and suffering.
Trauma is stored in the body whether we are conscious of it or not. And in fact I think many people are not conscious of their traumas. I’d still call it ‘harm’ regardless of their conscious awareness.
I have friends who were circumcised before they could form memories. They don’t remember it. Through healing work or other signs of trauma, they realized that in fact this early surgery was likely traumatic. I think Eliezer is sort of saying that this only counts as harm to the degree that it consciously affects them later or something? I disagree with this take, and I think it goes against moral intuition. (If one sees a baby screaming in pain, the impulse is to relieve their ‘pain’ even if they might not be having a conscious experience of it.) If I take a “non-sentient” chicken and cut off its wings, and I watch it as it helplessly tries to fly repeatedly, but is unable to, this strikes me as a form of harm to the chicken and its values even if the chicken is not having a subjective experience of its condition.
Also, from my investigations, much suffering does not reach the level of awareness. When a person investigates very closely and zooms in on experiences (such as through meditation), suffering is ‘found’ to be ‘occurring’ at a level of granularity and detail that was not previously accessible. But becoming aware of this suffering does not increase the amount of suffering that was occurring; you just become aware of the amount that was already there. It’s an “oh” moment. And this can actually help relieve the suffering, by becoming aware of it.
This suggests that maybe beings who lack the ability of awareness and observation to see their own condition actually are suffering more. This accords with my own journey in relieving personal suffering. More awareness was generally helpful. Whereas as a child, I was more ‘braindead’ in some way. Not very ‘conscious’.
One could make similar inquiries into ‘dissociation’. If a person is regularly dissociated and doesn’t feel things very intensely, does it make it more okay to hurt them?
Also my model of pain is that pain != suffering, which might be relevant here. Not sure.
Why is that? You’re still tying moral relevance to a subjective experience?
I had another complaint about that tweet, which… you do not seem to have, but I want to bring up anyway.
Why do we assume that ‘consciousness’ or ‘sentience’ implies ‘morally relevant’ ? And that a lack of consciousness (if we could prove that), would also imply ‘not morally relevant’ ?
It seems bad to me to torture chickens even if turns out they aren’t self-aware. But lots of people seem to take this as a major crux for them.
If I torture a permanently brain-damaged comatose person to death, who no one will miss, is that ‘fine’ ?
I am angry about this assumption; it seems too convenient.
Anna made a relevant follow-up question. She said something like: I expect picketing to be [a more balanced response] because it’s a public action. What about [non-public] (hidden) acts of retaliation?
I saw some of his reaction to this before my internet cut out again. (I think he could have used a hug in that moment… or maybe just me, maybe I could use a hug right now.) 😣
From the little glimpses I got (pretty much only during the first hour Q&A section), I got this sense (this is my own feelings and intuitions speaking):
I did not sense him being ‘in cooperate mode’ on the object level, but he seemed to be ‘picking cooperate’ on a meta level. He was trying to act according to good principles. E.g. by doing the video at all, and the way he tried to answer Qs by saying only true things. He tried not to come from a defensive place.
He seemed to keep to his own ‘side of the street’. Did not try to make claims about others, did not really offer models of others, did not speculate. I think he may have also been doing the same thing with the people in the chat? (I dunno tho, I didn’t see 90%.) Seems ‘cleaner’ to do it this way and avoids a lot of potential issues (like saying something that’s someone else’s to say). But meh, it’s also too bad we didn’t get to see his models about the people.