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This is an interesting thread. Read it.

It basically concerns EmileTorres's critique of EffectiveAltruism and particularly WhatWeOweTheFuture. And the accusation that EA downplays the importance of addressing ClimateChange in favour of other risks such as AIAlignmentProblem. Torres allegedly asked experts who were quoted in WWOTF if they really agreed with it. And this thread is by someone who believes they were fairly represented in the book and that Torres is trolling for ways to attack the book.


Seems to me that the real problem here is that we are all caught up in a problem of the pragmatics of our communication.

Writing a book today that says "ClimateChange may be important but not as important as X" is rather like the people who, faced with BlackLivesMatter protests, responded by wanting to shout AllLivesMatter.

It's not that all lives don't matter. Or that other things might not be, long term, more important than climate change. But the context of the moment makes it impossible for the statement NOT to carry a pragmatic meaning of "let's not worry so much about the thing you are concerned about".

Of course, this might be unfair. Perhaps the author of the book really wants us to worry as much about Climate Change as we should be, and that diverting attention from it wasn't his intention. Nevertheless it's impossible, given the context, that the assertion didn't carry this pragmatic connotation.

We are all doomed that our speech has these other connotations, whether we really want it to or not. Or, rather, in order to avoid them, we must do actual work to explicitly disown them.

A recent example with a different political polarity is the fallout from the HamasAttackOnIsrael2023 where after the Hamas attack, many Jews were hoping for an expression of solidarity for their suffering and fear. And instead, a large proportion of the left, internationally, immediately started asking about the Palestinians.

Again it's not that Palestinian lives don't matter. Or that it isn't true that Israel has killed far more Palestinian children than Hamas has killed Israeli children. But it's also understandable how many people could feel that, immediately asserting questions of the Palestinians after the Hamas attack was very similar to the people who started saying "All Lives Matter" in response to BLM.

Many on the left made impassioned and sophisticated arguments as to why, despite all lives mattering, All Lives Matter in response to BLM was clearly a "bad faith" response, a genuinely hostile and oppressive move. (I myself wrote arguments like this on Quora.)

So why don't the equivalent arguments hold for immediately talking about Palestinian lives after the slaughter of Jews? (There's a lot more about this on TheLeftAndArabNationalism. But I don't want to have that specific argument here. My main interest is in noting it as another example of this pragmatics problem, that it's very hard for us to say only what we want to say, and not be saying something beyond that.)

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