Being Vocal About What Works

A more encouraging way to think of Effective Altruism

Aaron Mayer


[Originally posted on Substackcross-posted on the EA Forum]

I’ve been a vegetarian (nearly vegan) for 6 years.

As veteran vegetarians (vetereginarians?) know, vitamin B12 isn’t really found in plants, and so people who don’t eat animals are often deficient in this important nutrient.

I’m not exactly sure how this information eluded me for all this time, but I only found out about the whole B12 thing a few months ago…

An EA friend of mine gently told me “Aaron, I’m really glad you’re a vegetarian, but that means you gotta take B12 supplements.”

He told this to me out of a good natured desire to help me. He knew something about health and wellbeing that I didn’t know, and he told me about B12 because he likes me and wants what’s best for me.

We do this for our friends all time.

If we stumble on a wellness routine that improves our health and happiness, we (rightly) evangelize it to others.

The same is true of book recommendations, restaurant suggestions, and a litany of other areas in which we give advice to our friends — not pejoratively or paternalistically, but from a desire to see our friends flourish.

However, I’ve noticed that not all advice is not readily shared.

Investment advice falls into this category, and I’m often surprised by how cagey people can be when talking about the stocks they invest in. At first I thought that being secretive might be a competitive advantage when picking stocks, but telling people won’t influence the price of the stock by much (if at all), so I can’t see why we shouldn’t at least tell our friends when we’ve found investment opportunities that work.

Similarly, I take drugs that I believe will have a measurable impact on my healthspan (sometimes called anti-aging drugs). I would love for my friends to take these drugs too since I want them to live long, healthy lives, but I’m reticent to bring it up in conversation because I fear my friends would raise an eyebrow and think I’m a weirdo (which is accurate, I guess 😅).

So I’m left with conflicting impulses: on one hand, I feel compelled to share the practices and habits and routines in my life that make me feel healthy, wealthy, and wise; on the other hand, I don’t…