This is Katja Grace’s blog. It is about the idiosyncratic class of things Katja considers to be on the frontier of important and interesting. Empirically, it tends to be about human behavior, social institutions and rules, anthropic reasoning, personal experimentation and improvement, philanthropy, and the prospect of machines becoming as interesting as humans. Katja is responsible for omissions as well as actions, and aspires to save the world at some point.
If you like this blog, but wish it was about mundane perspectives and ‘travel’ instead of matters of lasting importance, try Worldly Positions. If you want both of those things and more, with fewer errors from automatic crossposting, see world spirit sock puppet. (Everything here is now crossposted from there.)
Is there a podcast feed? Will there be one?
I don’t know what Hanson said–I prefer reading to listening–but why should someone think that if signaling is involved, the message concerns altruism. The message being signaled doesn’t necessarily correspond to the conscious self-image of the signaler. “Making a difference” is really about power, not altruism. One is confident one _can_ make a difference, leading others to think this may be the case. Someone with the intellect to make a difference is a powerful person.
Obviously, power is “high status.” Is altruism? I don’t think so, given that the poor are more generous than the rich. Of course, the measurement of generosity can be questioned, but the reason the rich or powerful are *not* generous is telling: arrogance interferes with empathy, and power produces arrogance. The arrogant, high-status mentality doesn’t suggest that altruism provides elevated status. When the rich or powerful are “altruistic,” it’s to demonstrate wealth, not to demonstrate altruism.
People may signal generosity, which makes them better liked but not necessarily high status. Those are two different facet of social relations. (I describe the two facets in “The Two Formalities” (http://tinyurl.com/4wx5mr6)
I was annoyed by Hanson’s repeated insinuations that charities spend most of their income on fundraising. This is something that’s easy to find out – Charity Navigator exists basically for this purpose – and over 40% spent on fundraising is considered terrible. Most moderately well-respected charities are in the 10%-30% range.
But beyond that, the fundraising vs. program costs ratio is exactly what gets too much attention in standard charity evaluation. The whole point is what they’re accomplishing with your money, and if an organization with 20% fundraising costs accomplishes more per dollar than one with 10% spent on fundraising, I should prefer the more effective organization.