Visualizing Donations



When I donate money to charity, I try to visualize the effects of my donations.

It’s easy for donating money to not make you very happy. You write a check and you don’t get to see the consequences of your actions. It isn’t as viscerally rewarding as, say, talking to a friend who’s been through a bad time or helping someone move or setting up two people on a date– even though donating money can have a positive effect hundreds of times larger than those actions.

Therefore, when I make a donation, I try to make the consequences of my donation very very salient.

I’ve found several advantages to the practice of visualizing my donations. Most obviously, it increases my sense of life satisfaction and pride in my accomplishments and increases my motivation to donate in the future. However, I’ve also found that it aligns my system 1 better with my system 2 when I’m thinking about my values. “I consider saving a child’s life to be about as good as doubling that child’s income” is very abstract, and my intuition doesn’t have a lot to say about it. If I imagine a parent holding their alive child, and a person who can afford an iron roof and enough food, my intuition has very strong opinions about both of these situations. Through this method, I connect my donations with all parts of my brain, instead of just the ‘explicit verbal thinking’ part.

Some charities are easier than others to visualize. GiveDirectly is particularly easy to visualize, because of GiveDirectly Live. I can scroll through GDLive and take credit for cash transfers up to 83% of the value of my donation (the rest goes to overhead). The life-saving GiveWell charities are also particularly easy to visualize: you can divide your donation by the cost per life saved and get an estimate of how many children you’ve saved.

Life-improving global poverty charities other than GiveDirectly, animal charities, and existential risk charities are harder to visualize. The GiveWell cost-effectiveness spreadsheet suggests that deworming is about ten times as good as GiveDirectly, so if you donate to a deworming charity you can do the GiveDirectly Live thing but multiply your donation by ten.

Animal charities and existential risk charities are more difficult to motivate. I suggest studying what the charity you’re donating to does, coming up with some reasonable thing that your donation is buying, and then following the chain of how it winds up improving the world. For example, a ten thousand dollar donation to the Good Food Institute might pay for an eighth of the salary of a person specializing in outreach to startups, and they identify funding opportunities for cultured meat startups, and that makes it more likely that cultured meat is developed.

I think it’s important, when you visualize, to make sure that a larger donation gets you a more rewarding visualization. People do not in general do this on their own. If your donations save five children’s lives, then you should make a particular effort to imagine five separate children that you saved and give yourself credit for each of them.

I haven’t explored this personally, but I’m interested in thinking about ways to bring the effects of my donations to mind more often. For example, I’ve considered making a collage of the benefits that come from my donations: a picture of a child for each child’s life saved, an iron roof for each GiveDirectly-cash-transfer-equivalent increase in consumption, a chicken for each donation equivalent to a year of veganism, a criminal for each person saved from the US justice system, a star for each appropriate unit decrease in the chance of human extinction, etc.

"Do it for her" from the Simpsons

This, except with a bunch of pictures of African children.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on how to make the effects of one’s donations more ‘real’, or other methods to increase warmfuzzies from donations and align warmfuzzies with effectiveness?


Het-Partnered Bisexual People Can Experience Homophobia



[content warning for slurs]

I have sometimes seen arguments that imply that bisexual people partnered to heterosexual people do not experience homophobia.

It makes sense that people might think this is the case. There are a lot of concrete ways that being in a heterosexual relationship makes your life easier. Het-partnered bisexual people can walk down the street holding hands with their partner without having someone yell slurs at them. They can get married in every country. Their parents are unlikely to reject their partner purely because of their gender. I certainly don’t mean this post to erase these advantages or to imply that het-partnered bisexual people who consider themselves to not experience homophobia are wrong.

When a lot of bisexuals talk about our experiences of oppression, the word that comes up a lot is invisibility. This can seem like, well, a pretty privileged complaint. “People think I’m straight” is often not a problem that the visibly queer have much sympathy for. And while that’s invalidating of your experiences, it can be hard to think what material harm being taken as straight causes.

But I think het-partnered bisexual people do have a very particular experience of homophobia, and I hope I can explain the material harm it causes in a way that makes sense.

First, and most obviously, being het-partnered now does not erase the homophobia you experienced in the past. Familial rejection, job discrimination, and inadequate health care — to name just three examples– can have effects that last a long time after your same-sex relationship ends.

Second, many (perhaps most) het-partnered bisexual people are partnered to straight people. And straight people are very often homophobic. Thus, het-partnered bisexual people are often in a position of being in a committed relationship with someone who hates a fundamental aspect of their identity. This particularly affects younger or more vulnerable bisexuals, who may not have a lot of options or may not know how to filter for kinds of homophobia more subtle than waving around a GOD HATES FAGS sign.

The effects of heterosexual partners’ homophobia can be very severe. 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking from an intimate partner, compared to 44% of lesbians, 35% of straight women, 26% of gay men, and 29% of straight men. 90% of bisexual female survivors report only male perpetrators; 79% of bisexual male survivors report only female perpetrators. The stark conclusion here is that, for queer people, being in an intimate relationship with a straight person is dangerous. The danger, I believe, is directly tied to the homophobia of many straight people.

Even bisexuals who are not abused can face harm from their partners’ homophobia. (I am mostly familiar with female bisexual experiences; I appreciate input from male bisexuals.) Some bisexuals are closeted to their partners, which means they have to self-monitor to avoid giving any sign that they might not be straight, even in their closest and most intimate relationship. Other bisexual women face extreme jealousy from their partners, who believe that they are “slutty” or will inevitably cheat because they’re bi. I myself have dated several men who treated my interest in women, not as if it were an important part of my sexuality, but as if it were a performance for them, a trivial thing that only mattered because they got off on it. They were confused when I discussed my bisexuality in a context other than dirty talk.

Third, the closet itself is a deeply traumatizing experience. As an excellent article about gay men’s experiences of the closet puts it:

“The trauma for gay men is the prolonged nature of it,” says William Elder, a sexual trauma researcher and psychologist. “If you experience one traumatic event, you have the kind of PTSD that can be resolved in four to six months of therapy. But if you experience years and years of small stressors—little things where you think, Was that because of my sexuality?—that can be even worse.”

Or, as Elder puts it, being in the closet is like someone having someone punch you lightly on the arm, over and over. At first, it’s annoying. After a while, it’s infuriating. Eventually, it’s all you can think about.

Closeted bisexual people have some advantages over closeted gay people: they can form relationships with people they love and have them socially recognized. These advantages can make it easier to be closeted. Het-partnered bisexual people can also find themselves de facto forced into the closet, particularly if they have an unsympathetic partner; being out as bisexual can feel like it’s oversharing or bringing up private information, even if mentioning your heterosexuality in the same context would be fine.

But many of the ways the closet can be traumatizing are the same. You hear what straight people really think about faggots and dykes when they don’t think any of us are around; in some contexts, that can be pretty horrifying. (My dad used to explain that he was fine with gay people as long as they didn’t flaunt it “like this,” that last accompanied by a mincing limp-wristed high-voiced caricature of a gay man.) You may have to self-monitor: avoid overly gay dress or body language, don’t look too long at someone you find attractive, hide your crushes, don’t mention people you find attractive when it comes up. While the studies are methodologically limited, research suggests that LGB people have higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse, and that concealing one’s LGB identity makes the psychological distress associated with being LGB worse.

Of course, the closet is different for different people. Some people find it easy to hide their LGB identity; they can either shrug off homophobic comments from straight people or don’t experience it. But I think a strong “het-partnered bisexual people don’t face homophobia” position requires you to believe that the closet is a privilege. We recognize that a twelve-year-old gay kid who can’t come out to his parents because they’ll reject him is facing homophobia, even if he’s not ready to date; the same can be true of the monogamously and heterosexually married thirty-year-old bisexual man.

A Response To Making Discussions In EA Groups Inclusive



Recently, an article was posted on the Effective Altruism Forum about making members of marginalized groups feel more included in effective altruism. It was written by more than twelve anonymous contributors. It argues that, because it is important that underrepresented groups feel welcome in effective altruism, we should be particularly cautious about certain conversations that risk making members of underrepresented groups feel uncomfortable. It suggests a long list of topics that effective altruists should think carefully before bringing up in effective altruist spaces, perhaps to the point of de facto banning them.

I agree that it is important to make marginalized people feel welcome in effective altruism, for several reasons. Some categories of people (women, people of color, people with certain disabilities, religious people, poor people) are underrepresented in effective altruism compared to the general population. Something about effective altruism may be driving those people away and causing us to lose out on talent and unique perspectives. Other categories of people (LGBTQA+ people, people with certain other disabilities) are over-represented in effective altruism compared to the general population. If the effective altruism community is homophobic, transphobic, or ableist, these people will experience stress and unhappiness, which is bad for its own sake, as well as perhaps making them less capable of doing good.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that the approach this article is taking sacrifices important effective altruist values while not necessarily succeeding in being welcoming to members of marginalized groups.

I am not against the idea that certain discussion topics should be unwelcome in effective altruist spaces. I myself have argued repeatedly that effective altruism should be secular, which is to say that effective altruist discussions should not touch the subject of religion in any way. Even if the most effective intervention is to convert everyone to your religion, that is not on topic in an effective altruist space, and you should talk about it elsewhere. (That is, of course, separate from supporting a religious organization which happens to implement a program that is highly cost-effective from secular premises.) Even if your true reason for believing something is that God commanded it, you must either come up with an argument that people of all religions can accept, or say “I believe this for religious reasons, so I won’t argue it.” Religious conversations are notoriously heated and hard to resolve, and a lot of progress can be made on animal advocacy, global poverty, and existential risk without resolving whether God exists or not.

Many of the items on the list seem similarly off-topic in effective altruist spaces. For example, I see no reason why effective altruist spaces should host discussions of whether having sex with men is a moral obligation, whether trans people are trying to trick people into sleeping with them, or indeed of sex in general. Similarly, I see no reason for effective altruist spaces to discuss corporal punishment, whether we should kill severely disabled people who are unable to consent to euthanasia, or whether gay people contribute to the survival of the species. These are simply not on topic, and they’re conversations that are likely to get heated and to alienate people.

However, certain of the topics discussed seem crucially related to effective altruist causes. For example, I do not think it is true that we should value people in the developing world less because they are less productive, or that people in the developing world are poor because of character flaws. But if these were true, they would be vitally important crucial considerations for how we direct effective altruist effort. And there are claims which reasonable people believe that an uncharitable person might round off to one of those claims. For example, poverty in the developing world might be related to corrupt and extractive institutions, as economist Daron Acemoglu argues; some people might strawman that position as “people in the developing world are poor because they have character flaws such as corruption.”

Of course, no one is suggesting that the causes of poverty in the developing world should be off-limits as an effective altruist discussion topic; that would be absurd. Instead, it appears that– at least on certain topics– the article is arguing for a one-sided silencing of certain positions on a topic. We can attribute poverty in the developing world to colonialism, inadequate institutions, or the simple absence of economic growth; we can’t attribute it to character flaws. We can argue enthusiastically that people in the developing world matter as much as people in the developed world; we can’t argue that they don’t matter as much.

So the article is not arguing that certain topics should be off-topic; it is arguing that certain topics should be on-topic, but that certain positions on certain topics should be forbidden.

There are several serious issues with one-sided silencing. Obviously, it does not let us self-correct if the forbidden position is right. But even if the forbidden position is wrong, there are serious costs. People who believe the forbidden position can’t bring up their arguments and have them debunked. People who believe correct positions can easily start to strawman their opponents, becoming less persuasive to those who believe incorrect things. The aura of forbidden knowledge may make those positions paradoxically enticing.

I don’t mean to imply that one-sided silencing is always wrong. For example, it would be derailing to bring up in the comments of a post about strategies for measuring diet change that you don’t think animals matter morally. Some conversations have to work from certain shared premises. An Effective Animal Altruists Facebook group could, quite reasonably, ban people for saying that animals don’t matter, because this is in fact not on topic for any discussion they have. But it is very important to sometimes talk about whether animals matter morally. An effective altruism movement in which that was never discussed would be critically impoverished.

The authors bring up that it would be “exhausting and counterproductive” for EAs to always have to discuss whether EA is a good idea in EA groups. But this is an argument against their thesis. It is vitally important that effective altruists consider whether EA is a good idea and engage with the best arguments of their critics. Certainly, it would be derailing to post “I think we have a special obligation to those close to us” in the comments of a post about educational interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. But if effective altruists were very hesitant to discuss the idea that effective altruism is fundamentally misguided, we would be perilously close to being a cult.

I am concerned that, not only will this effort make it more difficult for effective altruists to seek truth, but it will also fail to make effective altruism more welcoming to members of marginalized groups.

I think it is easy to confuse the views of marginalized groups with the views of people who consider themselves to be advocates for those groups. For example, many people believe abortion is an issue where men are generally pro-life and women are generally pro-choice, but in reality women are only slightly more likely than men to believe that abortion should be legal in all circumstances, and are equally likely to believe it should be illegal in all circumstances. While I don’t have polling data about many of the topics the authors of the article suggested should be generally off-limits, I personally know several disabled people who feel very strongly that they should not have children because of the risk of passing on their disabilities. They would feel very unwelcome if forbidden from expressing this opinion in a relevant discussion– especially if the policy were created with the specific intention of making them feel welcome!

The authors failed to address that, while forbidding one topic might be welcoming to one group, it might be unwelcoming to members of other groups. For example, most black people spank their children, at least sometimes; would a black woman who spanks her children feel unwelcome if an overwhelmingly white community is telling her that she can’t defend the parenting practices she chose because she believes they are best for her children? Similarly, many Muslims are socially conservative; is forbidding the expression of socially conservative beliefs unwelcoming to those Muslims? As far as I can tell, this question was not considered.

According to the article, the list of potentially upsetting topics was formed through asking marginalized effective altruists what topics make them feel unwelcome; none of the names of the effective altruists consulted are public. Of course, I understand why people might prefer not to speak under their own names. But I am concerned that this group may not be representative of the groups they’re from. Effective altruists tend to be different from people who aren’t effective altruists in many ways. Unless effort was made to combat this, the group that wrote the questions was probably richer, whiter, more educated, less religious, and more liberal than the groups they’re speaking for. All of these will affect what beliefs they tend to find offensive.

Further, I don’t actually think limiting discussion in this way is the lowest-hanging fruit for making effective altruism welcoming to marginalized groups and groups that are underrepresented in effective altruism.

I believe a more promising approach is the approach I took in my article about how effective altruists can be welcoming to conservatives. I do not suggest that we shouldn’t criticize Donald Trump. I do suggest avoiding jokes that have “conservatives are stupid” as a punchline, highlighting the effective altruist achievements of conservative politicians, using examples from both sides of the political aisle, and remembering that conservatives are in your audience and are listening.

Obviously, not every marginalized or underrepresented group will have similar low-hanging fruit. But I think this sort of approach is very promising, and a lot of it can generalize. Avoid jokes that hinge on a particular underrepresented group having negative traits. Highlight the effective altruist achievements of poor people, less educated people, women, LGBT people, and people of color. Remember that members of marginalized groups are in the audience.

There are other potential sources of low-hanging fruit. I’ve talked to local group organizers who said that they found the best way to attract new female effective altruists is to have two women commit to show up to every meeting, so that new women didn’t feel alienated by being the only woman in the room. I suspect a similar approach could be useful for other visible marginalizations, such as race and some physical disabilities.

Some advice is specific to the marginalized group in question. For example, disabled people often have a difficult time participating without appropriate accommodations. Local effective altruism groups might want to work towards being wheelchair-accessible and fragrance-free. Effective altruist websites might be built using accessibility best practices, such as image descriptions.

I believe that taking this sort of common-sense steps will make effective altruism more inclusive without compromising the ability of effective altruists to seek truth.

If You Believe In Short AI Timelines And A Positive Outcome You Should Consider Donating A Kidney



Many effective altruists of my acquaintance expect an artificial general intelligence (AGI) to be created within our lifetimes. They expect its abilities to far outstrip our own. Many of them believe there is a high chance of a very positive outcome: the creation of a post-scarcity society where people live for hundreds or thousands of years (if not indefinitely) and no longer suffer from human limitations.

I have occasionally seen people suggest that effective altruists who focus on the far future should not donate kidneys. I think this is a true claim for some sets of beliefs that far-future EAs sometimes have: for example, if you think there is a high chance of human extinction, donating a kidney is less good. But for the beliefs I outlined, I think donating a kidney is a thing more people should consider doing.

Kidney donation increases the patient’s lifespan by about nine years. For people who do not expect a post-scarcity society to be created in the relatively near future, the benefits of donating a kidney are, well, about nine years of life, plus the improved quality of life from not having to be on dialysis.

However, for people who expect a value-aligned superintelligence soon, kidney donation significantly increases the chance that a person will live a very very long lifespan in utopia. (Many people expect that the superintelligence will be able to upload minds or 3D print kidneys or similar.) Rather than a mere 14 QALYs, kidney donation produces hundreds if not thousands of expected QALYs.

Short AI timelines also reduce the costs of donation. Many risks are at the end of life, such as the increased risk of kidney disease; if you have short AI timelines, those risks are irrelevant (either because you’re dead or because the superintelligence has cured kidney disease). While you might have to avoid ibuprofen, you only have to avoid it for ten years or so, at least if you timed your kidney donation correctly.

I am uncertain about when to time your kidney donation relative to your AGI timelines. On one hand, you don’t want to risk overshooting and wasting your kidney; on the other hand, you want to maximize the chance that your recipient will survive until the creation of AGI.

There are certain people for whom it is not the right decision to donate a kidney. An incomplete list:

  • People who are not allowed to donate a kidney by the medical establishment.
  • People who wish to save their kidney to increase the chance that family members or friends make it to the creation of a superintelligence.
  • People who are unusually scared of needles or hospitals or for whom this is otherwise an unreasonably large request.
  • People who are doing direct work, if they expect three weeks of their work to produce more QALYs than donating.
    • It may be worth considering whether the enforced rest from donating a kidney would have some of the benefits of taking a vacation for you.
  • People who do not get paid medical leave or vacation and who either are paid enough that their donations outweigh the benefit of donating a kidney or would suffer financial difficulties from taking three weeks off.

But in general, I think more EAs who are concerned about AGI should consider kidney donation as part of their portfolio of altruistic behavior.

Sexual Attraction and Tide Pods



Sometimes people define “sexual attraction” as “wanting to have sex with someone.” This can be really confusing when we talk about the asexuality spectrum. If we define “demisexual” as “only wants to have sex in a committed and emotionally intimate relationship,” it’s extraordinarily common, perhaps normal. A huge number of people– perhaps most women– are demisexual.

But I think it’s important to distinguish two kinds of wanting.

Think about tide pods. (Or fake fruit, or dice, or those really fancy cakes that are actually made out of cardboard.) Every time I do laundry, some part of my brain insists that the tide pod is CANDY and would make a DELICIOUS SNACK and I have the impulse to eat one.

I don’t actually want to eat a tide pod. If you put some tide pods in front of me for dinner, I would not experience the slightest internal conflict. I am perfectly aware that tide pods are gross and would make me feel disgusting if I chewed one.

But there’s still that part of me that says “tide pods are a snack.”

Sexual attraction is similar. I don’t want to have sex with that hot person I see in the coffeeshop. I would have to talk to them first. We might not be sexually compatible. I am somewhat frightened of strangers. If you presented Hot Coffeeshop Person to me naked and were like “okay, have sex now” I would not experience the slightest temptation to have sex with them.

But some part of my brain is like “probably appropriate to have sex with?” the same way some part of my brain is like “probably a snack?”

It is normal for allosexual people to have very few people– often, less than a dozen or only one person– in their I Would Experience Any Temptation At All To Have Sex With This Person If They Tried To Have Sex With Me category. It is not normal for allosexual people to have that few people in their Part Of My Brain Thinks Sex With This Person Is Appetizing The Same Way Tide Pods Would Make A Good Snack category. People who have very few people in their Want To Have Sex With The Same Way I Want To Eat A Tide Pod category may be graysexual or demisexual.

Book Post for April (Global Poverty and Misc)


Global Poverty

The Gender Effect: An ethnography of the Nike Foundation. The author cannot write, which is very unfortunate, because she has some amazing data; reading between the lines, she wound up volunteering at a bunch of Nike-Foundation-associated NGOs until they forgot she was doing research and were perhaps more candid than they really ought to be.

“Women in development,” “women and development, and “gender and development” are apparently three different paradigms for studying gender and international development. Why. (“Women in development” is the liberal economics-y one, “women and development” is the Marxist one, and “gender and development” is the intersectional, postmodernist one.)

At the time the data was collected, the Nike Foundation prioritized economic empowerment for adolescent girls. Their implicit definition of “adolescent girl” was constructed on a Western and developed-world line– the adolescent girl is unemployed, in school, not pregnant, etc.– which doesn’t match the concrete reality on the ground. Adult women were explicitly excluded, on the grounds that they were already married and employed and had children and therefore their position in life is set and they could not be meaningfully economically empowered.

Girls specifically are prioritized because, the Nike Foundation believes, women are selfless and invest in their communities, unlike men. There’s this appalling anecdote where a staff member at an NGO says “we want to help girls, because when you go to the beach and no one has any money, who pays? the girl.” This is a remarkable example of sexist pedestalization wearing a feminist hat, and puts an enormous burden on marginalized teenage girls. Not only are they responsible for their own well-being and flourishing, they’re responsible for lifting their entire community out of poverty? There’s an assumption that of course women are responsible for the wellbeing of everyone around them, which honestly is incredibly sexist! Perhaps we should be empowering women to set reasonable boundaries about what things are and are not their personal problems.

One of the NGOs studied provides job education to teenage girls. At the beginning of the program, the girls had a variety of different aspirations: vet, architect, doctor. At the end of the program, literally all of them wanted to become administrative assistants. The researcher asked the NGO why it channeled them into becoming administrative assistants, instead of encouraging them to go to college, which they would probably be able to do for free; the answer is that they were poor black girls from the favela and being a secretary was pretty much the best the NGO felt they could hope for. Not only did the “economic empowerment” charity reduce girls’ aspirations, it also failed to particularly economically empower them: most of the participants were unemployed and most of the employed participants had menial jobs.

The Nike Foundation made a bunch of investments on the theory that economically and educationally empowering teenage girls would pay off. The Foundation did not want to have to switch to a different cause area. This, naturally, caused their monitoring and evaluation division to nudge the grantees to get certain results. To quote one informant:

 They have this M&E [monitoring and evaluation] framework into which the grantees’ work is supposed to feed. The reason we are supporting you is because we want to say this after we fund you. It is really particular and really easy for them to be disappointed. . . . They have big plans for the messaging around the M&E, which is why they are trying to set up the M&E so carefully. It is almost pre-messaged. Let’s see. Its engagement with grantees is set up in such a way that their findings are already anticipated. Can we say this, can we say that?

In particular, the Nike Foundations M&E programs tended to prioritize things the evaluators considered important (age at first marriage, age at first pregnancy, assets, income) rather than things the participants considered important. This creates perverse incentives. One NGO pressured its participants not to have children so their funding wouldn’t be revoked. Delaying pregnancy and marriage were used as metrics even when studying women in their late teens and early twenties, many of whom may prefer to marry and have children. The Nike Foundation’s messaging around “if a woman gets pregnant, she can no longer become economically empowered” fails to engage with on-the-ground realities, such as some women who go back to school after their children are born in order to create a better life for their kids.

Doomed Interventions: I object to the premise of this book. There is very little evidence about whether HIV/AIDS interventions in Africa are succeeding or failing. The evidence that does exist often suggests that they’re succeeding: for example, new HIV infections are dropping in Africa. The author insists she is not making any claims about whether HIV interventions are working or not, but the literal subtitle of her book is “The Failure of Global Responses To AIDS In Africa.”

Africans, as a group, tend to deprioritize HIV/AIDS. This is a major mismatch with donor funding: in many years, more aid money is spent on HIV/AIDS than is spent on all other health programs in Africa combined. HIV-positive Africans and those who lost a loved one to HIV were not much more likely to prioritize HIV spending. It seems like some of what is going on is that people with HIV benefit from public health measures that help everyone: for example, people with AIDS are particularly likely to die from opportunistic infections, so they benefit from clean water.

The author discusses aid spending from the point of view of principal-agent problems. This causes her to combine two distinct situations in her analysis. First, sometimes aid money is just stolen, which is obviously bad. Second, sometimes headmen (village leaders) redirect money earmarked to HIV for causes their constituents care about more, such as clean water or improved agriculture. The latter seems… fine? Unless we have some specific reason to believe that we know better than the headmen what the village’s needs are– which does happen, headmen do not have Sci-Hub access and cannot read the latest economics papers about the effect of deworming on development– it is a good thing for headmen to redirect money towards more pressing needs.

A baffling fact that was shared without any explanation whatsoever is that, in Malawi, the highest-risk groups for HIV infection include primary school teachers. (Malawi has essentially no blood-related transmission of HIV.) Why do primary school teachers have such a high rate of HIV? What the fuck? Does anybody know the answer to this?

Further interesting facts:

  • Traditional healers typically give accurate information about how to reduce your risk of HIV. At least one peddler of a quack HIV prevention medicine claims it only works if you and your partner are monogamous.
  • The Chichewa word for “white person” translates as “wonder maker.”
  • Village headmen are not typically elected in Malawi. However, if they do a poor job, they will be driven out of the village by a group of women jeering and hurling insults.
  • People in Malawi seem to get a lot of divorces, to the point that a major source of a village headman’s power is the fact that he typically is a mediator during divorces. I would be interested in reading more about how this works.

Portfolios of the Poor: The subtitle is “How The World’s Poor Live On $2 A Day” and I bought it hoping that it would tell me about how you get food, shelter, and medical care if you live on $2 a day. This is not actually the topic of the book. Instead, Portfolios of the Poor is about how the global poor do financial management and budgeting.

The global poor have “triple whammy”: their incomes are low, their incomes are unpredictable and uneven (some days they earn a lot of money and others none at all), and they do not have access to financial instruments designed to deal with their unique problems. They must figure out how to smooth consumption, raise lump sums when necessary, and deal with emergencies. The global poor use a surprisingly sophisticated array of financial techniques to manage this triple whammy. In fact, the amount of money saved, loaned, or borrowed over the course of the year is often many times the family’s income.

From the perspective of the global poor, there isn’t necessarily a difference between savings and loans. The global poor often pay money to save: for example, they may pay a person to stop by their house every day and bug them to give the person ten cents, of which they will receive $2.50 at the end of the month. The global poor often also pay off their loans and then immediately take out a new loan. It is easy to see how, from the perspective of a member of the global poor, these may be considered the same financial instrument. While it may seem economically irrational, it actually makes sense: you can buy many more things with $2.50 than with ten cents every day, you can’t procrastinate on saving money, and no one is going to steal your savings.

For this reason, it’s important to design financial services for the global poor that reflect the needs of the global poor. It’s a mistake to assume that the global poor are going to use their microloans to invest in a small business and move out of poverty. Instead, microfinance should strive to provide a convenient, reliable, flexible way to access lump sums of money that doesn’t require the global poor to exercise an inhuman level of self-discipline.


Who Could That Be At This Hour?: I generally found the VFD sections of the Series of Unfortunate Events books rather tedious and uninteresting, and Who Could That Be At This Hour is literally nothing but VFD content. If it is the sort of thing you’re interested in, you may be interested in it, but I was not.

The Dialectic of Sex: The Dialectic of Sex is an incredibly frustrating book. On one hand, it is one of the few feminist books that presents a utopia that I find exciting. Many feminist utopias are bland and don’t really question the nature of society (“what if… there was still day care… but it was 24 hours a day and free”). Others lack specifics (“everyone loves their bodies and racism is over”). Still others are just really really unappealing (“everyone lives in harmony with nature and respects their moon cycles,” “we have finally eradicated the scourge of kinky sex from the world”).

But Shulamith Firestone’s vision is a place where I want to live. Increasing automation frees both women and men from the burden of unchosen work, allowing them plenty of time for art and play. Contraceptives, artificial wombs, improved formula, and similar technological advancements will give women and men an equal role in all parts of the childbearing and childrearing process, except by personal choice. Coercive education is abolished, children are integrated with all of society as full citizens, and children’s rights are massively expanded, including a right of children to switch households. People have complete sexual freedom, and all consensual sexual decisions are unstigmatized. It is no longer assumed that everyone wants a monogamous, committed, romantic-sexual life partnership or that romantic relationships are more important than friendships. The fundamental unit of society is the household, a group of adults who have agreed to share their lives and build a family together; it is not assumed that a household must consist of two people in a romantic-sexual relationship, or that people must limit their romantic or sexual relationships to their own household. The last chapter of The Dialectic of Sex describes the feminist world I want to have.

I also think the core of Shulamith Firestone’s analysis is accurate. Women’s oppression is related to their biology: that is, as long as men are physically stronger than women, and women spend much of their lives pregnant or breastfeeding, there will be a division of labor between men and women. The division of labor will produce gender roles which do not necessarily serve the flourishing of either men or women, and because men are not constrained by taking care of small children they will generally wind up with political and economic power. The sensible and practical solution is to minimize biological sex divisions through, most importantly, contraceptives and artificial wombs.

Unfortunately, the Dialectic of Sex is fundamentally marred by many of the weaknesses of second-wave feminist theory. It assumes Freudianism is an accurate model of human psychology, which is responsible for many of its most baffling claims (in an ideal feminist society people would no longer have the incest taboo) and simple factual inaccuracies (children raised in gender-equal households will all be bisexual). This is hardly Shulamith Firestone’s fault– the book was published in 1970– but it means much of the work is not useful for a modern feminist thinker.

I really want someone to take Firestone’s basic framework and update it to create a powerful vision of a liberatory, sex-positive, anti-work, pro-children’s rights transhumanist feminism.

Without You, There Is No Us: A fascinating, powerful memoir about a woman who taught English to the sons of North Korea’s elite. By far the most interesting part of the book is how many questions it leaves unanswered. Even living in North Korea does not give you a lot of information about what North Korea is like. Her students lie thoughtlessly and constantly, about easily observable facts: saying they partied with their friends at other schools on summer break when all their friends were doing forced construction labor; saying they slept in till 8am when they were clearly doing drills at 6am. The author goes on a trip to a Christian church full of North Koreans; she wonders, uneasily, whether the church was made up as a show for her. The book tells you very little about what North Korea is like, but makes you acutely aware of how little you know about it.

The Only Harmless Great Thing: In an alternate history with sapient elephants, after a radium company had to stop using human women, it used elephants. Sometimes you get a feeling that the author has read the same viral Tumblr text posts you have. I enjoyed it fine– the radium girls are a very interesting historical setup– but it didn’t feel deep or well-thought-out. It really felt like the author’s engagement with history consisted solely of Tumblr text posts.

Book Post for April (Parenting)




It’s Okay To Go Up The Slide: The first book in this series– It’s Okay Not To Share– is one of my favorite parenting books, and I was eager to read It’s Okay To Go Up The Slide, which is aimed at parents of elementary schoolers. Much of the advice was solid. Let children read books that are scary or sad or have unhappy endings; it builds empathy and helps them process bad things that happen in their own lives. Elementary school homework causes stress and family conflict and takes time that could be spent on more valuable activities, and there’s no evidence that suggests any benefit; consider campaigning against it at your child’s school or– if you have the class/education/race privilege to pull it off– simply informing the teacher that your child shall not be doing homework. Recess is tremendously beneficial to children, but many schools are cutting it to spend more time on academics or punish children by removing recess (boo! hiss!); encourage your school to end these harmful policies and transition towards spending perhaps a quarter of the child’s time at school at recess. Allow your children bodily autonomy by not requiring them to kiss or hug adults.

Unfortunately, there was a section I found appalling, which was the section on technology. The respect for children’s autonomy that pervades the rest of the series was thrown out the window as soon as the topic of screens came up. The authors encourage long periods of uninterrupted free play in which children can make their own decisions, but also encourage limiting screen time to thirty minutes per day. The authors encourage violent play as a way for children to process their feelings and play with power, but first-person shooters make them clutch their pearls about encouraging violence. The authors talk about the ridiculous, almost gaslight-y “right to engage with the real, non-screen world for most of the day.” Setting aside the bizarre definition of the word “real”– where talking to a friend who lives far away is not real, and watching actors pretend to be imaginary people in a play is real, and whether a fantasy novel is real depends on whether you’re using a laptop to read it– if you have to force a person to do something against their will in order to get them to exercise their right, it’s not a fucking right.

I’m not knee-jerk pro-screen-use. I am as troubled as anyone else by the addictive nature of social media and some video games. I am concerned about low-value Internet browsing crowding out the healthy boredom that builds creativity and cherished childhood memories. I plan to limit my children’s use of screens before bed because I am concerned it will disrupt their sleep.

But I think we need to be careful and discerning about what our children’s screen use means. Are they writing a novel, or are they getting in dumb fights on Facebook? Is it a situation where we should take away their laptop, or a situation where we should support them in learning the skill of managing their own Internet use? Is excessive screen use a coping mechanism for some other problem– boredom, inability to access space away from adults, depression– that would be worsened by getting rid of screen use? What are the benefits of screen use for our child? (I myself am autistic and developed social skills online, because I could lurk to teach myself social rules and because there was no confusing body language or vocal tone, which meant that online social skills were simpler to develop. Spending “too much” time online was one of the best things I could have done in my adolescence.)

On a less important note, the chapter on princesses was clearly aimed at an audience different from me. The chapter was all “I know you think little girls (and boys!) pretending to be princesses is awful, but have you considered that instead of banning princesses entirely you can limit the number of times they watch princess movies and not buy them princess dolls?” Dude, if I have a daughter I am going to watch Mulan with her because Mulan is a great movie and you are missing out. Sofia the Great is pretty solid too.

I honestly don’t get this objection to princesses. A lot of the criticisms (“princesses don’t do anything, they just wait for a man to rescue them”) imply that the speaker literally has not watched a Disney princess movie that came out within my lifetime. People are very rarely troubled by little boys and girls playing superhero or Star Wars, despite the problematic messages in those stories; why are we troubled by them playing princess? Honestly, I think the number of little girls playing princess is linked to the fact that– although this trend is shifting due to shows like Steven Universe– there is very little media that has multiple female characters and doesn’t have any princesses in it. (Okay, yeah, Tinkerbell, but I think the anti-princess crew is probably not a big fan of Tinkerbell either.)

Bottled Up: Honestly, mainstream parenting as it is described in this book sounds horrifying? I started out breastfeeding my son, then started giving him supplementary bottles, and eventually switched to full-time bottlefeeding when I realized that breastfeeding was giving me severe gender dysphoria. No one has ever commented negatively on this or judged me. My parent friends who breastfeed were very supportive of my decision to switch to bottles (in fact, one was like “why are you even breastfeeding?”).

Anyway, I’m very grateful I’m not in this horrifying subculture of people who are weirdly invested in what other people do with their boobs. If you are in this subculture, consider picking up the book; it might be validating.

Cribsheet: I loved Emily Oster’s Expecting Better and I bought Cribsheet, her book about birth through preschool, on the first day it came out. It’s skippable if you’re generally an evidence-based parenting nerd, but if you’d like a reasonable introduction I’d put it right up there with Science of Mom.

Take home lessons, if you want to skip the research and just want to know what she believes:

  • Newborn baths are unnecessary but not damaging; do a tub bath.
  • Circumcision has small benefits and small risks.
  • Rooming in probably doesn’t have a big effect on whether you breastfeed or not, but make sure not to fall asleep with your infant in the hospital bed.
  • Swaddling reduces crying and improves sleep. Be sure to swaddle your baby in a way where they can move their hips and legs.
  • Colic will EVENTUALLY STOP. Changing formula or maternal diet and giving baby a probiotic may help.
  • Limit the exposure to germs of infants under three months, because the interventions for young feverish infants are very aggressive and stressful for parents and baby.
  • You will bleed for several weeks after childbirth and you may have vaginal tearing which will take several weeks to heal. It will take significant time for you to be mobile after a C section.
  • You can start exercising a week after giving birth and return to your normal exercise routine by six weeks after giving birth.
  • You can have sex as soon as you feel comfortable and ready and aren’t in pain. The “wait six weeks” thing was made up by doctors who want to give women an excuse not to have sex.
  • Postpartum depression is common and treatable.
  • There is limited evidence of health benefits to breastfeeding early on and no strong evidence of long-term health or cognitive benefits to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast cancer.
  • Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth improves likelihood of breastfeeding success.
  • Fixing a tongue or lip tie can reduce pain but doesn’t necessarily improve nursing.
  • Nipple shields can improve a latch but can also be hard to quit.
  • There is not a lot of evidence on how to prevent pain with nursing, although fixing the latch may help. If you are in pain a few minutes into the feeding or a few weeks into nursing, seek help; it might be an infection or something else with a solution.
  • The evidence does not suggest nipple confusion is a thing.
  • Most women have milk come in within three days after the baby is born, but for a quarter of women it takes longer.
  • Nursing more will increase your milk supply. The evidence for non-drug/herbal interventions is limited.
  • Pumping SUCKS. It is time-consuming, unpleasant, and degrading.
  • Babies should sleep on their backs.
  • Bed sharing can be risky. The risks are higher if you or your partner smoke or drink alcohol. But if it’s the only way you can get some rest, the risks are going to be worth it for many people. Sleeping on a sofa with an infant is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. ALWAYS take your baby into your bed if the other option is sleeping with them on the sofa.
  • Room sharing is beneficial in the first three months. Both your sleep and your child’s may be better if they sleep in a different room after the first few months.
  • Crib bumpers have a very small risk and a very small benefit.
  • Don’t put soft stuff in your baby’s crib. Do give them a wearable blanket/sleep sack.
  • In general, longer nighttime sleep starts around two months, three regular naps around four months, two naps around nine months, one nap around fifteen to eighteen months, and no naps around age three.
  • Children’s sleep schedules are very very different from each other and you cannot control them.
  • Most babies and toddlers wake up between 6 am and 8 am.
  • Putting your baby or toddler to bed earlier will cause them to sleep longer.
  • Babies benefit from their mothers taking maternity leave.
  • Studies do not show any consistent positive or negative effects from having a stay-at-home parent. Do what works for your family.
  • The most important thing about childcare is quality. Look for a warm, responsive provider who cuddles the baby, reads to them, comforts them when they’re sad, and plays with them.
  • Kids in day cares typically have slightly better cognitive outcomes and slightly worse behavior outcomes. Kids in day care get sick more but develop more immunity.
  • Parenting quality is way, way more important than childcare quality, even though your child is spending lots of time with their childcare providers.
  • “Cry it out” methods encourage nighttime sleep, improve mental health for parents, and do not harm infants in the short or long term.
  • All sleep training methods work about equally well. Choose something you can stick with, then stick with it.
  • Expose your children to food allergens early on to prevent food allergies.
  • Expose your children to a variety of foods. Even if they reject it the first time they have it, keep offering the food.
  • There is no evidence behind the usual recommendations for when to introduce food. Baby-led weaning isn’t magic but it works fine
  • Give your baby vitamin D but don’t freak out about missing a day here or there.
  • Delayed motor development can be a sign of certain disabilities such as cerebral palsy, but variations within the wide normal range are not a cause for concern.
  • Children get about one cold per month during the winter. Buy lots of lotion tissues.
  • Children under the age of two can’t learn from TV. Children from age three to five can. But the evidence is sparse.
  • Try to expose children to high-quality educational TV such as Sesame Street.
  • The timing of language development is correlated with later outcomes, such as test scores, but pretty weakly.
  • Starting intensive potty-training before 27 months does not seem to lead to earlier completion of potty training. After 27 months, potty-training earlier leads the child to use the potty earlier.
  • There is limited evidence on potty-training methods.
  • Some children may refuse to poop in the potty. Praising children for pooping in the diaper may reduce the rate of children refusing to poop in the potty, but there is not a lot of evidence.
  • To discipline your child, don’t get angry and provide consistent rewards and punishments.
  • Spanking is associated with worse behavior throughout childhood and into adulthood.
  • Read to your children starting in early childhood.
  • Your baby cannot learn to read. A few unusual two- or three-year-olds can read.
  • Evidence on preschool philosophies is limited.
  • Marital satisfaction declines after you have kids. If you’re happy before you have kids, and the kids are planned, the declines are smaller and briefer.
  • Unequal division of labor and less sex probably cause at least some of the decline in marital satisfaction, but we don’t know how important they are.
  • There is limited evidence that marital counseling and marriage checkup programs increase marital satisfaction.
  • The data does not provide guidance on the ideal number of children or birth spacing, but very short birth intervals may lead to preterm birth and possibly higher risk of autism.

Link Post for April



Different kinds of risk and how to mitigate them.

Chronic sleep deprivation is bad. This is a pro-sleep blog. Please make sure you get enough sleep tonight.

It’s hard to pick a best line from the incomparable Nathan J. Robinson’s jeremiad against Bernie Sanders for not giving away his millions, but it’s a beautiful explanation for why the rich should give away our money.

Effective Altruism

“[A]cademics predicted that there is 1% chance of nuclear extinction risk in the 21st century.”

Some interesting critiques of effective altruist approaches to charity evaluation from a former GiveWell employee.

An interview with Melinda Gates, shared because of the horrifying fact that Bill Gates had to explain to Trump the difference between HPV and HIV more than once.

To improve education in the developing world, give children free food.


Why are online degrees so expensive?

Vaccines may not last as long as we believe they do.




[This is a prompted Patreon post from Jared.]

Graysexuality is fascinating because we get to watch the process of a new orientation being constructed in real time.

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network defines graysexuality as the following:

Sexuality is not black and white; some people identify in the gray (spelled “grey” in some countries) area between asexual and sexual. People who identify as gray-A can include, but are not limited to those who:

    • do not normally experience sexual attraction, but do experience it sometimes

    • experience sexual attraction, but a low sex drive

    • experience sexual attraction and drive, but not strongly enough to want to act on them

    • people who can enjoy and desire sex, but only under very limited and specific circumstances

Graysexuality can be a very broad term, and it’s easy to misinterpret what people mean about it from a definition. Here are some examples of graysexual experiences people I’ve talked to have had:

  • Never experiencing sexual attraction or the desire to have sex, but suspecting they would be sexually attracted to someone in the context of a committed lifelong relationship.
  • Two or three brief experiences of sexual attraction over the course of their entire lives.
  • Attraction to fictional characters, but no attraction to real-life people.
  • An interest in masturbation, but a sense of disgust and repulsion about sex with other people.
  • A desire for sex about once or twice a year.
  • An interest in sex, but only if it involves a specific complicated fetish that is impractical to do particularly often.
  • Thinking they were asexual for decades and then experiencing sexual attraction for the first time in their thirties and being like “…what.”
  • Confusion about whether or not they experience sexual attraction.

A common critique of graysexual identity is that graysexual people are “just normal.” In one sense, this is inaccurate: graysexual experiences are not very common. Most people want sex reasonably often and are attracted to a number of people you couldn’t count on one hand with fingers left over. Graysexual experiences are legitimately far from the norm.

But in another sense this is an accurate criticism. Graysexual experiences, outside certain communities relatively recently, are viewed as part of the spectrum of normal sexual behavior. They aren’t distinguished from ordinary heterosexuals, gay people, or bisexuals. A person who has graysexual experiences may characterize himself as “low libido” or “just not that interested in sex”, but he’s unlikely to consider it an aspect of his identity.

Indeed, we can see this with people whose experiences are equally far from the norm on the other side. A person with hundreds of sexual partners who’s had anonymous sex and who prefers to have sex two or three times a day might call himself “horny” or “slutty” or say he really enjoys sex; he will not characterize himself as having a sexual orientation related to being really really into sex.

Of course, this is very similar to the experience of gender-based attraction before the invention of heterosexuality. An ancient Roman man who is exclusively attracted to men might call himself a boy lover or say he doesn’t like women; he will not call himself “gay” and consider himself to be part of a group with all other gay men, opposed to all heterosexuals.

What we’re observing here is the process of a sexual orientation being constructed.

Humans are, in many ways, different from chairs. One way in which humans and chairs are different is that chairs do not respond to how you categorize them. If you categorize a chair as “an armchair” or “upholstered” or “environmentally friendly,” the chair does not change its behavior, because chairs do not speak English and do not have any concept of categorization. If a person is categorized as a Communist or an introvert or a bisexual, in many cases, the person may change their behavior. They might get defensive of other communists; they might feel justified in their decision not to go to parties; they might go to the Bisexual March to hang out with other bisexuals; they might create a niche meme page for memes relevant to people in the intersection of the three groups.

This means that, among humans, defining a category can create the category. People who are attracted to solely people of the same gender exist no matter whether a word for them exists or not. But rainbow flags and pride marches, gay undercuts and Grindr, coming out and familial rejection, the movies and books and music that make up the canon of gay culture, gay history and gay humor and specialty sex shops– these things exist because we have the category “gay” and that we decided it was a socially important category, one that matters for how we classify people.

Graysexuality is, in some sense, borrowing importance and salience from the more popular sexual orientations. Classifying it as a sexual orientation implies that it is an important category, something that matters a lot for understanding yourself and other people.

I think most of the effects of creating this category are positive. People– both graysexual and not graysexual– can find compatible romantic partners more easily. Graysexuals are less likely to feel broken or alone. They are less likely to have sex they don’t particularly want or find interesting, because everyone enjoys sex, don’t they? Their experiences feel valid. They can find other people who are similar to them and form a culture.

But I think there are negative consequences to forming the category as well. The way we construct sexual orientation in general makes claims about what is important to people’s experiences of their sexuality, but to many people in what ways their attraction is gendered is not actually a very important aspect of sexuality. (This seems like less of an issue for graysexuality– not particularly liking or wanting sex seems like it would be very relevant to nearly everyone’s experiences of sexuality.)

Labels can create a pressure to put your experiences in a box, sanding off the rough edges and the weirdnesses that make up every human experience of sexuality, instead of allowing things to be complicated. The pressure to know whether you are Really X can create a lot of angst and anxiety. People can stick with an identity that no longer serves them or describes their experiences, because they have a lot of their understanding of who they are as a person bound up with it.

Some experiences on the graysexual spectrum can be caused by medications, trauma, dissociation or simply not knowing what your sexual interests are. “I don’t need to be fixed, this is my orientation, it’s just the way I am, I can’t change” can be a double-edged sword. It frees some graysexuals from the futile search to fix a natural part of their sexuality, and allows others to explain what’s going on with their sexuality without giving a medical history or explaining trauma they’d like to keep private. But for some people sexuality is an important part of their flourishing, and a medication adjustment or a process of sexual exploration would improve their lives. (Fortunately, in my experience, graysexual communities are very friendly to people who switch to new identities.)

Certainly, however, the social construction of the graysexual identity is sociologically interesting, even as an outsider. Some person who studies the sociology of sexuality should consider writing a book on it; it’s an interesting case study in something we don’t get to see very often, the formation of a new sexual orientation.

On Stimming and Autistic Authenticity



[This post was commissioned by one of my patrons, Geoff.]

I stim more now than I did when I was diagnosed, and much more than I did when I was fifteen. I sway, I rock, I flap, I jiggle my leg, I pace, I make satisfying patterns with my fingers. What’s more, some of my autistic body language is clearly copied from other autistic people. I took up flapping when I met an autistic friend who flapped.

It is easy, I think, to assume that you are faking your autism, if these things are true of you. Perhaps you are an autismtrender, or a fake self-diagnoser who is just doing it for attention.

I suggest an alternate explanation. Whether or not they were diagnosed with autism, all autistic people experience a process of normalization. For people who are diagnosed, it’s an explicitly medical process: quiet hands, M&Ms for not stimming, therapeutic and educational goals to extinguish the way our bodies naturally move.

For people who are not diagnosed, the normalization process is subtler, but no less real. I still remember making soothing patterns with my fingers when my father asked, in a tone of disgust, “why are you doing those weird things with your fingers?” and mockingly imitated the way I held them together and separated them. I learned not to make patterns, not to shake my foot when I’m thinking, not to rock or sway when I’m overloaded, not to flap when I experience joy.

Those of us who self-diagnosed with autism or were professionally diagnosed as adults are often those for whom this subtle process of normalization worked best. We are the most dissociated from our natural body language. The research suggests this experience is particularly common among cis female autistic people (and probably, albeit more complicatedly, among transgender autistic people as well).

Being able to pass as nonautistic is an important skill. We live in a world full of people who hate autistic people. Other people find the natural way our bodies move to be upsetting or repulsive to look at. It is not realistic to expect nonautistic people to change, so those of us who can acquire the skill of passing will often be better able to achieve our goals if we can pass.

But the process of normalization, I think, cuts us away from ourselves to some degree. It’s hard to throw myself into experiences, to enter a state of flow, when I’m constantly monitoring myself to see whether the way I move is sufficiently normal. Trying to look at my body the way other people look at it creates anxiety. I don’t have access to the ways of self-soothing that are most natural to me. And creating the beautiful patterns with my fingers is a source of joy.

So I have made, since my diagnosis, an effort to return to the natural way my body moves. And because I have been cut off from it so completely, it sometimes requires looking at other autistic people. Perhaps toe-walking will feel natural and right. Some typically autistic gestures I try do not, and I abandon them; I don’t get anything out of spinning, although I’m glad you guys enjoy it.

Rather than being inauthentic, I think, this is a way of becoming authentic, when we’re raised in a society that cuts us off from ourselves.