Effective Altruism in Fan Fiction · 7:22am
Over the past three years, we at Bronies for Good have often been delighted with the readiness of members of the fandom to pitch in to help people in need even if they are not affiliated with ponies at all. These altruistic folks have primarily been musicians who contributed to our charity albums, but they’ve also been artists, fan fiction writers, and many others whose talents are not as easily epitomized. Often the initiative to help was theirs, and I would say that we’re indebted to them if we weren’t all on the same team struggling for common goals.
This summer, we want to reach out to them more directly, and here in particular I want to reach out to you, the writers of fan fiction. I would not have had the motivation to start practicing my writing if it weren’t for my hope that fiction can be transformative. The term narrative itself is widely used to describe mental and cultural processes that give meaning to facts, and is thus a foundational part of our cognition. Even when the facts may be partially fictitious, the meaning can still be real, and many readers understand that. Such understanding, I hope, will go even deeper than consciousness.
The meaning that I want to explore is that of empathy. Most of us have it, but we have to learn to use it. Empathy easily motivates us to help a single person, someone with a name we know, and in particular someone culturally close to us, but all too often it fails to motivate us to help thousands who are suffering almost the exact same fate. When empathy has to split, it breaks. (Small and Loewenstein (2003); Kogut and Ritov (2005); Small, Loewenstein, and Slovic (2007); etc.)
Few of us have the means to save thousands, but together we can give it a shot. This is where I want to harness the power of fiction, to motivate all of us to act altruistically and do so thoughtfully.
If you have written a story that focuses on this theme or themes of effective altruism in general, I would like to collect it in our Bronies for Good group. (It should be rated “everyone,” possibly “teen.”)
You are at the tiller now and at the oars as well. It is up to you to use your stories to make a positive impact upon the world, however great or small it might be.
Every bit of story counts!