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Post series

This blog is structured around series of posts. On this page, you will find descriptions of each post series and a link to the series.

1. Academic papers: The purpose of this blog is to use academic research to drive positive change within and outside of the effective altruism movement. This series draws insights from academic papers related to effective altruism.

(A) Sub-series: Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils: This series is based on my paper “Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils”. The paper develops a tension between two claims: Existential Risk Pessimism (levels of existential risk are very high) and the Astronomical Value Thesis (efforts to reduce existential risk have astronomical value). It explores the Time of Perils hypothesis as a way out of the tension.

(B) Sub-series: Mistakes in the moral mathematics of existential risk. This series is based on my paper “Mistakes in the moral mathematics of existential risk”. The paper discusses three mistakes in the way that existential risk mitigation efforts are often valued. Correcting these mistakes reduces the expected value of existential risk mitigation efforts and also reveals important areas for future work.

(C) Sub-series: The good it promises: This series is based on a volume of essays entitled The good it promises, the harm it does: Critical essays on effective altruism. The volume brings together a diverse collection of scholars, activists and practitioners to critically reflect on effective altruism. In this series, I draw lessons from papers contained in the volume.

2. Academics review What we owe the future: Will MacAskill’s book What we owe the future is one of the most influential recent books about effective altruism. A number of prominent academics have written insightful reviews of the book. In this series, I draw lessons from some of my favorite academic reviews of What we owe the future.

3. Billionaire philanthropy: Effective altruism relies increasingly on a few billionaire donors to sustain its operations. What is the role of billionaire philanthropists within effective altruism and within society? What should that role be? In this series, I ask what drives billionaire philanthropists, how they are taxed and regulated, and what sorts of influence they should be allowed to wield within a democratic society.

4. Belonging: Who is or can be an effective altruist? Whose voices will be heard? Who feels that they belong within effective altruism, and who feels marginalized, uncomfortable, or mistreated? This series discusses questions of inclusion and belonging within and around the effective altruism movement, with a focus on identifying avenues for positive and lasting change.

5. Epistemics: Effective altruists use the term `epistemics’ to describe practices that shape knowledge, belief and opinion within a community. This series focuses on areas in which community epistemics could be productively improved.

6. Exaggerating the risks: Effective altruists give alarmingly high estimates of the levels of existential risk facing humanity today. In this series, I look at some places where leading estimates of existential risk look to have been exaggerated.

(A) Sub-series: AI risk: I look at the Carlsmith Report on risks from power-seeking artificial intelligence and argue that key elements of the argument are undersupported.

(B) Sub-series: Climate risk: I argue that Toby Ord’s estimated 1/1,000 chance of irreversible existential catastrophe by 2100 from climate change is undersupported. Then I use the Halstead Report on longtermism and climate change to argue that climate risk is likely much lower than this.

(C) Sub-series: Biorisk: I give general reasons to expect that engineered pandemics and other biological threats do not pose significant levels of near-term existential risk. Then I review leading estimates of biorisk and argue that they are undersupported.