Proposal: Effective Altruism

In an attempt to keep things simple and to have catchy slogan, the description of this SE reads : "Proposed Q&A site for donators and impact evaluation professionals to discuss scientific evidence on the most effective ways to improve the world."

Obviously, different people have different opinions on what "improving the world" means.

Should Effective Altruism SE be about questions like "What is the most (cost-)effective way to achieve X?" whatever X is, or should we impose guidelines on the kind of X that are amenable to this SE?

For instance, which of the following are acceptable, and why?

What is the most effective way to,

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. Limit the number of abortions in country Y?
  3. Make college more accessible for the children of low income families?
  4. Encourage the return of refugees in their home country?
  5. Promote LGBT rights?
  6. Make the public more favorable to the "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms"?

I would also posit that while many of these may be in abstract acceptable, I expect that existing effective altruism culture would cause some to be more prevalent as topics than others.

Also, there's a phenomenon called the XY problem which is well documented on Stack Exchange, wherein:

you are trying to solve problem X, and you think solution Y would work, but instead of asking about X when you run into trouble, you ask about Y.

This shows up in EA too, where someone might find themselves asking how they can most effectively e.g. "3) Make college more accessible for the children of low income families?" but then people responding help them clarify that what their underlying goal is is actually increasing class mobility, which is better achieved via... some other approach. I don't need to get into the specifics here.

"I expect that existing effective altruism culture would cause some to be more prevalent as topics than others." I imagine more specifically that questions 2 and 6 might be downvoted pretty hard, and 4 and 5 would be at least somewhat controversial. – Joe Z. Jun 23 '16 at 3:10

In my views, an Effective Altruism SE can only be successful if it is morally agnostic, within the limits of legality.

There are many other SE websites and venues where people can discuss the foundations of right and wrong.

If the questions get caught into discussing what's right and what's wrong, the site would loose its value added.

So to answer my own question : all the above questions (1 to 6) should be amenable to the site.

I would not personally put efforts into answering all of them because I do not agree with the interest of some of the "X's" at stakes, but that should not be a reason to dismiss the questions if other people care for this particular X ( and if, as is the case -- I believe -- in 1 to 6, discussing the best way to achieve X does not violate any law -- say in the US).

You included the statement "within the limits of legality", not sure that will work, Stack Exchange is a world wide community, different countries have different laws. Previous proposals where legality was an issue, were limited to posting content on servers that live in the United States. Nothing else really matters. Law is just enforced morality, If you are going to be morally agnostic you need to be legally agnostic as well. The US has freedom of speech, so pretty much everything is OK to talk about, but some things may cause the FBI or CIA to pull data from the servers. – James Jenkins Apr 11 '16 at 14:17
So would you say then that questions ask about the opposites of those causes would also be on-topic? – curiousdannii Aug 15 '16 at 13:55
Yes. For example, I don't necessarily expect questions about the "most effective way to increase greenhouse gas emissions” to appear. But if they do, I don’t think that they should be ruled as off topic. In a nutshell : this site should be about the means, not the ends. – Martin Van der Linden Aug 15 '16 at 15:15

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