A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Dictionaries are No Longer Useful For Argumentation

Historically, one of the most important tools for resolving any philosophical debate has been the dictionary. When you encounter a thorny topic like "do we possess free will?", a healthy first instinct is to consult your nearest or most authoritative dictionary in order to establish exactly what the words "free will" mean.

The reason for this is clear. Such debates typically lead to people attempting to twist the meanings of words in ways that are favourable to their views. The only answer is to outsource the business of defining these words to people who have training and experience in divining the precise meanings of words, and who do not have a dog in the particular philosophical fight.

Unfortunately, this is no longer true. See, for example, this recent tweet from Dictionary.com:
 This is far from an isolated example of the social media teams of online dictionaries intervening in political discourse. See, for instance this article of 10 times Merriam Webster has majorly trolled Donald Trump. The common factor to these cases, of course, is that they are intervening from a progressive standpoint. It's not just the social media teams - the very fact that a dictionary is willing to include SJW terms like "mansplaining" is a sign that they are no longer impartial arbitrators of our shared language.

The consequences of this are clear. We can no longer argue things "by definition" or "by looking up what the dictionary says", because these alleged "definitions" are being rigged. Moreover, any attempts to argue in this way should be taken as signs of braindead progressivism.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Can Prediction Markets Reduce Sexual Harassment?

Recently the @litenitenoah twitter account observed that:
I'm not certain what ethical objections not-Noah has in mind, and suspect that I probably don't care about them. If prediction markets in sexual harassment (henceforth PMSHs) have the effect of reducing sexual harassment, then this is good and it will take a lot to convince me that the markets are overall not worth having.  (There used to be a prediction market in terrorism, which was shut down after outrage from politicians.) That said, it remains an open question as to whether or not PMSHs actually will have this effect.

After a couple of weeks of on-and-off thinking about this, I want to suggest that any PMSH will have both some specific advantages and some specific disadvantages. At present my fear is that the disadvantages win out; however,  The size of these effects will of course depend upon the precise way in which these prediction markets are implemented. One of my aims with this post, then, is to open up discussion about how exactly these markets can be designed so as to maximise the good and minimise the bad.

It is also worth stating, as a preliminary, a couple of limitations on all of this. Firstly, prediction markets are means of aggregating information, but they are not by themselves a means of governance. They can function as part of a government mechanism, as in Robin Hanson's futarchy, but only as a part. What this means is that while PMSHs may give us a reasonable idea of which men are abusers, it does not in itself provide a means towards actual trying men who may be guilty: any trial will require a concrete accusation from a concrete victim. This does not mean PMSHs can't reduce harassment, however, as we will shortly see.

Second, it is typically assumed in discussions of prediction markets that the existence of and odds given by markets do not affect the outcome being predicted. This may well not hold in this case - a victim might be emboldened to speak out against her harasser if the prediction market says he is probably a harasser, or might alternatively conclude that someone else is likely to come forward and there is no need to subject herself to examination in court. The fact that prediction market odds can affect the outcome is not by itself a problem - one might imagine a prediction market for individuals' health and life expectancies, with individuals buying bullishly on themselves so as to have a financial incentive to eat well and exercise - but it can cause problems, which we will discuss later.

Lastly before getting onto the ins and outs: I shall be proceeding on the assumption that prediction markets are basically efficient at aggregating information. If you disagree with this premise, please take that up elsewhere with Robin Hanson or someone, and accept it for the sake of argument in this post.

The case in favour

In my view, there are two large advantages which any PMSH would have, and two other advantages which PMSHs might have depending upon their design and size, and one other advantage whose size is difficult to gauge.

Firstly, there already exist informal whisper-networks, mostly though by no means entirely between women, about which men are not to be trusted or enabled. These networks can enable women to reduce their vulnerability to potential harassers, and can enable concerned third-parties to jump in to head off and stop harassment at an early opportunity. The effect of a prediction market would be to make this information, in an admittedly less-finely-detailed format, available to all concerned. Women should not have to change their behaviour to avoid being harassed, but since in some cases they can having access to PMSHs would give them a better idea of when this is necessary; concerned friends, similarly would be in a better position to know which men ought not to be left alone with young women for significant lengths of time, and which men really are harmless.

Second, harassers are frequently enabled by the institutions in which they work or serve. Larry Nassar, the former medic at Michigan State University and USA Athletics, was able to abuse over 300 women and girls because of silence surrounding his activities which had been going on since the 1990s. Such silences can only be maintained because institutions and the people within them have plausible deniability about whether they were truly aware of abuse going on. PMSHs would remove that deniability: having a high predicted odds of being accused of harassment would be an instant red flag that would make it much harder for institutions to engage in the kind of motivated ignorance which allows abuse to continue over extended periods of time.

An advantage which I think would be real, but can only speak for anecdotally, would accrue to men with prediction markets on their own odds of being accused of harassment. I do not wish to harass women; being of imperfect social intelligence, however, I frequently struggle to identify which behaviours will be taken as playful flirting or everyday platonic compliments, and which will be experienced as threatening by the women at whom they are directed. Of course I try to err on the side of safety, but I can hardly pretend that I have always succeeded here. Having an external evaluation of how threatening I am seen as would allow me to better calibrate my behaviour - was that girl giving of signs of distress that I didn't pick up on and the other guy did, or did he just want her to dance with him instead? Do I need to reduce the amount of alcohol I consume when going out on the town? Certainly I'm not alone in asking myself these questions - more than one male friend has expressed similar concerns in private conversations.

I wish to mention two other ways in which PMSHs might - might - serve to reduce sexual harassment. One of the biggest problems in tackling sexual abuse is that victims are, entirely reasonably, unwilling to publicly accuse their abusers because doing so will mean exposing deeply personal aspects of their lives to strangers. Whether you consider this to be the Patriarchy in action, an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of having a well-functioning justice system, or a bit of both, this is the constraint within which we have to work. PMSHs would allow women to provide information about their abusers anonymously, by buying bets that the abuser will in fact be accused.

The advantage I am most doubtful about - and which I think a PMSH would ultimately have to jettison - is that it may provide some material compensation to women who do expose their abusers. A woman who has bought bets on the man who harassed her may stand to make money by actually going public, which may make her more likely to go public and/or may alleviate her loss of privacy, for example by allowing her to spend a while in a new location without running down her savings.

The case against PMSHs

There are two issues with this, however, which I suspect mean that a well-functioning PMSH would have to prevent women from financially benefiting by accusing men. Firstly, it is not clear that this incentive would only affect cases where abuse actually did occur. This may therefore create cases where men are falsely accused of harassment by women who want to make money out of the accusation.

This is unlikely to be an especially widespread problem - while false accusations of rape do occur, they are at most a small minority of actual accusations. That said, the prospect of such accusations means that there will be an obvious new brush with which genuine victims can be tarred - any man accused of harassing women may simply claim that his accusers are mercenaries trying to destroy his reputation for money. This will both create extra stress for genuine victims, and may lead courts to wrongly fail to convict a higher proportion of genuine abusers.

It is possible that we may come up with a way to prevent false accusers from financially benefiting from their accusations. Suffice it to say, however, that I have not yet thought up such a way, and this is my greatest worry as to why PMSHs may ultimately be unworkable or counterproductive.

A second major concern is that rich abusers may be able to cover up perceptions of their threat level by buying all bets on their being exposed. This is not the absolute worst possible scenario - it would at least mean that they would pay some price for their misdeeds - but it might allow them a pretence of harmlessness which the informal whisper-networks would have quickly dissipated. We all know stories of rich artists who have raped young women and got away with it; while it might be better that they were in prison, at least their reputations provide a warning to other young women who fall into their orbits. These men might be able to counteract or upend these reputations by betting financially on their not being accused.

There are other, smaller, objections, mostly of the form that PMSHs do not go far enough or are insufficient - that they would only take into account abuse of women with money, or that only men who are already in some way notable would have PMSHs surrounding them. These objections might well be correct, but they are not reasons to oppose PMSHs, merely to think that they must serve as part of a whole package of measures we might take to reduce abuse.


My current suspicion is that the disadvantages win out - that PMSHs might well, on balance, make it easier for men to get away with abuse. There are ways to combat this - for example, by preventing men from betting on their own behaviour, and by preventing people from both holding bets that a person will be accused and accusing that same person. If these are even achievable, however, they may undermine the advantages that are supposed to make PMSHs useful.

This should not be the final word. I would welcome any suggestions as to how PMSHs can be designed so as to avoid incentivising false accusations - and as importantly, to avoid giving the impression of incentivising false false accusations - and as to how they can prevent rich abusers from rigging their own reputations. But it seems clear to me that such suggestions are sorely needed before PMSHs can serve as a tool for making women safer.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Notes on Never Eat Alone

I’m about 60% of the way through Keith Ferrazzi’s widely-recommended book on networking,
Never Eat Alone. As such, this is not a comprehensive review but rather a few notes on things
that have so far struck me while reading it.

Where is the actual work being done?
The impression one gets of Ferrazzi’s life from the book is that it (a) creates absolutely
enormous amounts of value for people and (b) involves little to nothing that we would
recognise as “ordinary work”. That’s not to say that he is lazy - the effort he apparently goes
to in making contacts and ensuring that he is adding value to their lives is nothing short of
heroic. But this seems to be all that is happening - there are descriptions of planning ahead
(i.e. planning which people to meet and befriend), and of strategies for meeting people,
directing meetings, and maintaining relationships, but none at all of making important
decisions. Indeed, there’s a mention of one senior business leader who attributes his
success to spending hours each day patrolling the factory, not actually achieving anything
but being sure to greet every individual worker, no matter how lowly, by their first name.

I don’t want to suggest that this kind of stuff is unimportant or that it “isn’t work”. But for it
to be viable for businesses to pay people like Ferazzi megabucks for it, one is led inexorably
to the conclusion that either (a) most business purchasing decisions have a very great deal
of latitude, such that decision-makers can actually decide from whom to buy based on who
the know and like rather than product cost and quality, or (b) the business world is a
chronically low-trust place, such that the creation of these relationships really is incredibly
valuable not just to the individuals concerned but to society as a whole - if there were not these
strong bonds being forged, the deals would not be going through at all. There’s probably also
a fair dollop of (c), that the book - being focused on networking, after all - misses out a lot of
Ferazzi’s other activities, but neither (a) nor (b) exactly fills one with optimism about the state
of the American business world.*

It me
He argues that conferences are basically useless for learning things, but that they are
nevertheless highly valuable because they allow business-people to make connections
leading to contracts. To wit, one of his “Don’t Be This Person” profiles (page 133):

THE WALLFLOWER: The limp handshake, the postion in the far corner of the room, the
unassuming demeanour - all signs that this person thinks he or she is there to watch the speakers.

The determinants of success
If I were to summarise the lessons of the book so far, they would be that social success
depends upon five factors: planning, research, organisation, confidence, and actively seeking
to create value for people.

Ferrazzi regularly thinks consciously about what his goals are, and sets out concrete action
plans for what he wants to achieve towards them in the next 90 days, the next year, and the
next three years. In particular, one aspect of planning I had never considered before s that in
addition to setting goals for himself, he identifies several people - not just for each goal, but
for each progress marker - who can bring him closer to his ambitions. The chosen goals and
targets are based on a mixture of introspection about what he truly wants, and consultation
with others (of course) about what his strengths and weaknesses are. There isn’t much
about tracking one’s progress towards these once started, but it seems safe to assume
that’s part of it too.

Second - he prepares for his networking. Quoting from page 69:

“Before I meet with any new people I’ve been thinking of introducing myself to, I research who
they are and what their business is. I find out what’s important to them: their hobbies, challenges,
goals - inside their business and out. Before the meeting, I generally prepare, or have my assistant
1prepare, a one-page synopsis on the person I’m about to meet… I want to know what this person
is like as a human being, what he or she feels strongly about, and what his or her proudest
achievements are.”

He suggests a variety of ways to go about compiling this information, all of which should
be available online - social media, company PR literature, and annual reports from the company.

A while back, one notoriously successful networker raised considerable furor by revealing that
he kept a list of his friends, ranking them on a variety of metrics including income, political
soundness (for his own warped value of “soundness”), and physical attractiveness. Ferrazzi
doesn’t recommend anything quite so calculating, but he reveals that he goes beyond merely
keeping a list of contacts to divide them up into 1s, 2s, and 3s, and makes contact with them
on a schedule according to their importance within this schema. He also advises that a new
contact will only remember you after they’ve had contact with you via three different media,
and he communicates accordingly - if he emailed them originally, he’ll strive to speak to them
on the phone and to meet them in person within the next few months, for example.

One of the reasons I’d be appalling in his job is that I’d have nowhere near his confidence in
pushing boundaries. I can just about get the idea of trying to meet people well above your
station and maybe even solicit favours from them - but his advice that people will tolerate
being contacted, unsolicited, five times a day seems remarkable. I used to work in a call
centre, and we would frequently have people screaming at us if we called them three times
in a week. Perhaps this is a difference between the UK and the USA?

But the most optimistic key to the golden gates, and a positive note to end on, is his emphasis
on unconditionally aiming to create value for other people. Whenever someone mentions a
problem to him, he describes his thought process as “Who do I know who could help this
person with their problem?” He portrays himself as generous with his time and keen to do
favours, and I have no particular reason to believe that he is being dishonest; and above all,
while he is clear that you should be receiving favours as well as giving them, states as the
title of one of the earliest chapters - Don’t Keep Score. This cuts both ways - being willing to
receive favours that you can’t repay as well as to give out favours with no particular prospect
of them being returned to you - but after all, there’s nothing wrong with being clear about
what others can do for you, so long as one is gracious in accepting them and pays it on to
someone else.

Overall the book’s advice seems actionable; the chapters are short, containing a minimum of
fat; and I am so far happy to add to the recommendations of it.

*Ferrazzi also finds the time for long monastic retreats, weeks building schools by hand in
Africa, spending six months unemployed between jobs, and the like. Again I have no
objections to his presence in the business world, he seems to be creating enormous
amounts of value for those who know him - but it contributes further to the impression that
what value he creates is concentrated within a relatively low number of events, as opposed
to the long grind of value-creation that characterises most jobs.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Three Routes to Elitism

Open and explicit elitism is a greatly underrated political position. Being contrary to the democratic ethos of our times, "elitist" is more commonly a derogatory adjective than a merely descriptive one. In this post, I shall set out three ways in which one might attempt to justify elitism, and suggest ways in which they may be flawed.

Route One: Aren't We Great!

This is the most basic route to elitism, and it is almost as simple as the title above suggests. This is the elitism of pub sessions, of putting the world to rights over a pint or six. Most people probably think that the world would be better off if they were in charge, but the difference is that we - being the cognitive elite, as evidenced by our smart conversations - are actually justified in this belief.

Well, clearly most people who engage in this kind of reasoning aren't justified in it. I actually do think that at least some of the people I know personally are justified in it, but the fact is that even explicitly elitist politics is highly unlikely to put Superforecasters and the like into positions of power. In practice, an openly elitist political system would resemble the average academic department. If we're lucky, a science department where people would at least be highly numerate; if we're unlucky, a humanities department, which are mostly full of "people like Hillary Clinton with faulty BS detectors, poor critical thinking skills, and severe social desirability bias." When one advocates for elitism, one should think of oneself as advocating less for the rule of sensible people like oneself, so much as advocating for the rule of humanities postgrads.

Route Two: Whig History

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a symbol of both Budapest and
Hungary. This is not the original bridge, which was destroyed
during the Second World War and had to be rebuilt.
Count István Széchenyi left an impressive set of institutions around Budapest. The most famous are the Chain Bridge across the Danube and the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, but he also founded the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Casino. In addition to this, he conducted various measures to improve the navigability of the Danube and to open it up to steamships, and wrote a great deal of classical liberal political theory. (Since I'm posing Széchenyi as a champion of elitism, it is interesting to contrast him with another figure of 1840s Hungarian politics, Lajos Kossuth. Kossuth was far better known abroad, since after the collapse of the 1848 rebellion he lived abroad as perhaps the single greatest voice of democratic liberal nationalism. Kossuth is every bit as celebrated as Széchenyi - the square in which the Hungarian parliament stands is named for him - but it is almost impossible to point to anything he established which lasted beyond 1849).

Going back further in Hungarian history, the arrival of the Renaissance in Hungary is credited more or less entirely to King Matthias Corvinus. Corvinus was not dealt an especially powerful hand - he started his kingship as a puppet of his uncle - but he greatly expanded his power by establishing a professional army, introducing legal reforms and curbs on baronial power, and creating meritocracy in state service.

The point at which I am driving is that some people do things. Sometimes these things are good, sometimes they are bad, but ultimately they create a small minority upon which progress is dependent. If you want society to progress, the best you can do is to create processes which select for these people and deliver as much power to them as possible.

One important thing to note is that while both of these lines of thinking lead to elitism, they lead to rather different elites - "Aren't We Great" suggests we want our leaders chosen for their intelligence, while "Whig History" suggests we should choose them for being driven and conscientious.

The biggest objection to this kind of elitism is the conservative worry that they will tear apart all that we have achieved. To be honest I think that's probably enough by itself - political deadlock is annoying, but kicking the machine to make it work is generally bad. One might also question the model of the world on which it rests. It may well be that the emergence of Hungary as a prosperous nation in the late 19th century owes a massive amount to Count Széchenyi, but how many other countries are there whose development could be traced to the positive actions of a single person?

Route Three: If not the elites, then who?

I don't think anarchy is feasible, at least for the foreseeable future. It's not that I don't see anarcho-capitalism as a valuable ideal towards which me might aspire, but that people have yet to breed out their tribal instincts and the abolition of the state would lead in short order to massive demand either for a new one, or to its effective replacement with clans. Given this, it makes sense to have a government which is at least somewhat under our control.

Since there must be a government, there must be someone in charge. So... why not the elites? It's true that power attracts people with unsavoury motivations and brings out people's corruption, but that will happen whoever you put in charge. Good traits - not just things like intelligence, health, and height, but also pro-social and trusting attitudes - are positively correlated for the most part. So if it's a choice between the common man and the credulous, unoriginal, unspiring elite in pantsuits... give me the elite every time.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Clearing out some old links

Solution here.

A neural net creating names for British towns. There's an associated Twitter account, though it does lose its charm after a while.

A lovely old profile of Derek Parfit (pbuh) and Janet Radcliffe-Richards. I don't really know the work of the Churchlands, but it's in my links folder so let's unload that too.

A brief discussion of the value of art, very interesting in the light of Hanson and Simler.


Some wholesomeness for you

Photos of a real war fought with bows and arrows. (Content warning: unpleasant photos of wounded people).

This is the future liberals want.

At least it's not brutalism.

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Pinkerian Case for Campus SJWism

Last week, courtesy of a commercial offer which I am shamelessly and ruthlessly abusing, I was able to attend a talk by Steven Pinker discussing his new book Enlightenment Now. I haven't yet had the time to look beyond the opening pages, so if you want a review on the book you should go to the one written by his ultimate fangirl. However, after the talk I was able to ask him the question:

"Many people who accept the trends you point to argue that due to the decline of religion and of thick communities, it is harder for individuals to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Do you agree with this assessment, and either (a) why not? or (b) do you expect it to continue?"

He disagreed with this assessment, giving two counterarguments. The first, which I don't find especially compelling (although IIRC I found it rather more compelling when Peter Singer said the same thing in a book I was otherwise disappointed by) was that people can find meaning in making a better world in general. People are not, in general, motivated strongly by the prospect of making the universe better. (Ctrl-f "charity"). There definitely are some people who are, and more power to them, but I don't think universalism can play the role in people's lives that, for many years, deities did.

His second, more convincing response was that people are finding new ways to build meaning in their lives. The example he himself gave was social justice movements on campuses - a purpose which many people choose for themselves as a purpose to which they can dedicate themselves. People may no longer identify as Christians, but they are very happy to identify as feminists.

Review: The Most Good You Can Do

I originally wrote this review in June 2015 for what was intended to be a collection of reviews of books with interesting and/or provocative these. Unfortunately, the person who was organising the collection did not manage to publish it before they left the ASI; I was reminded of this book by another discussion, and so am making the review generally available. This is the review as I submitted it, without any changes.

Peter Singer achieved prominence as a moral philosopher in the 1970s with a series of books and articles arguing for controversial positions in impeccably logical fashion. One article in particular, Famine, Affluence and Morality (1972) argued that as members of rich, developed nations, we have strong duties of rescue to people living in less developed countries. This line of thinking has spawned the Effective Altruism movement, a set of groups whose members are pledged to ending poverty, saving the world, and in general averting suffering wherever they see it. Effective altruists, due to their focus upon concrete impact, think and act very differently from members of other charitable movements. The Most Good You Can Do functions as an introduction to this movement, presenting an introduction to and defence of its main beliefs and practices.

The opening chapters give a brief description of the movement and of how it came about. This includes some of the controversial claims to which effective altruists tend to subscribe – notably, that one is unlikely to achieve a great deal of good by working for a typical charity. When one is employed by a charity, this is likely to fill a role in the charity which could equally well have been done by any other volunteer. If one instead finds a well-paid job and donates money to the charity, the net positive impact of one’s career is likely to be far greater. This has led to some effective altruists seeking out employment in financial trading, despite the rather poor reputations held by financial firms regarding the morality of their practices.

The second section of the book deals with some of the specific actions taken by effective altruists. These include reducing one’s consumption in order to give more, seeking high-earning jobs, and donating organs. The chapter on earning to give contains the first seriously philosophical sections of the book, a response to objections made by David Brooks and by the ghost of Bernard Williams. In response to the idea that earning to give sacrifices one’s integrity and alienates a person from their personal goals and projects, Singer claims (without much in the way of argument) that merely “doing good” is a perfectly adequate goal for one’s life – in which case earning to give, far from representing the subjugation of one’s aims to an imperative to maximise global utility, can be the ultimate expression of authenticity.

In response to the idea that going into finance upholds and strengthens the system of capitalism which impoverishes many and drives inequality, Singer engages in a brief defence of capitalism, pointing to the fact that it has “lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty”. Finally he considers the idea that going into finance harms people, and that ‘do not harm’ ought to be prior to ‘do the most good’ as a principle of morality. Singer questions this priority with an example drawn from the London Blitz, but seems to devote more attention to attacking the account of harm upon which the objection rests. It is unclear that Singer needs to defend earning to give against these specific objections – while finance is one career path for someone who earns to give, there are after all a range of alternatives including law, consultancy, and entrepreneurship.

In addition to these, Singer discusses a range of other careers in which one’s impact might be directly through the work – among others effective altruist advocacy, jobs in aid organisations, and medical research. Finally, he discusses the good one can achieve by donating parts of one’s body. Since many people are unwilling to donate kidneys except in exchange for kidneys to save the lives of their own friends and family, someone who is willing to donate a kidney without attaching conditions can start a “kidney chain” of multiple donations, perhaps saving five or six lives through a single donation. Unfortunately the number of such donors is currently small (117 in the UK in 2013; the US figure, adjusted for population, is worse), not helped by the fact that until 2006 such donations were in fact illegal in the UK.

The third section of the book discusses the factors which motivate effective altruists to undertake apparently sacrificial actions purely in order to help others. Singer suggests that the emergence of effective altruism represents a triumph of reasoning over emotion, and presents a range of evidence to show that members of the wider population are usually moved to act altruistically more out of instinct than out of reasoned consideration. He also argues that we tend to overestimate how much happiness we will lose out on by giving away money and to fail to recognise the sense of purpose and self-esteem which many people gain from helping others.

The final section of the book presents perhaps the most controversial claims which effective altruists universally take for granted: that some charities and causes are simply better than others. Singer observes that, while poverty and suffering exist the whole world round, it is generally a lot easier to relieve them in the third world than in the first world. Singer compares a program of Rubella vaccination by philanthropist Ted Turner, estimated to have prevented around 13.8 million deaths between 2000-2012 at an average cost of $80 per life saved, with a 2007 operation which separated two conjoined twins from Costa Rica at a cost running into millions of dollars.

After sharply criticising the practice of spending megabucks on improving museums while there are starving children in Africa, Singer turns to some issues which are not universally accepted even by effective altruists. The first is animal rights; the second, the perhaps less familiar subject of existential risk. Given that (hopefully) the vast majority of humans have yet to exist, one of the biggest threats to the sum of human wellbeing is the risk of becoming extinct. Efforts to reduce the risks of nuclear war, asteroid impacts, and unfriendly artificial intelligence, then, could be a remarkably effective form of charitable giving.

All in all, The Most Good You Can Do is very readable and serves well as an introduction to the effective altruist movement. Even as someone who has been involved with effective altruism for almost two years, I learned things from reading it. Since the book is more a summary of existing arguments than an attempt to break new ground, the arguments made are perhaps not as strong as one might expect, with an often unnecessary reliance upon utilitarianism.