We are currently accepting applications for a researcher on a rolling basis. Please see the information below. We encourage you to apply sooner rather than later.
We also welcome brief expressions of interest for other roles that can strengthen our research and positive impact, which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This position offers a lot of flexibility with few requirements other than the production of high-quality research on moral circle expansion and digital minds. We are open to a variety of research methods: qualitative (e.g. historical case studies, interviews, conceptual analysis), quantitative (e.g. surveys, behavioral experiments, analysis of existing industry and survey data), or mixed methods. As of 2023, most of our research has been psychological experiments and surveys, so we are especially interested in projects more closely related to the fields of human-computer/robot/AI interaction and ‘macro’ social science (e.g., sociology, economics).
Our main research focus is digital minds: artificial intelligences (AIs) that are not merely intelligent in the sense of problem-solving ability, but have mental capacities such as experience and agency. We see this as an important, neglected, and tractable research area for ensuring future AI systems are safe and beneficial, and interest in it has grown significantly in recent months with ChatGPT, Bing AI, and other advances in large language models. Because this is such a new field, a lot of our research so far has been big-picture scoping and laying groundwork for future projects. Over the next few years, we hope to help build a robust body of theoretical and empirical digital minds literature. Our publications to date include:
- “The Moral Consideration of Artificial Entities: A Literature Review.” 2021. Science and Engineering Ethics.
- “Moral Circle Expansion: A Promising Strategy to Impact the Far Future.” 2021. Futures.
- “Artificial Intelligence, Morality, and Sentience (AIMS) Survey 2021.” 2022. Sentience Institute.
- “The History of AI Rights Research.” 2022. Sentience Institute.
- “Predicting the Moral Consideration of Artificial Intelligences.” 2022. Computers in Human Behavior.
- “Digital suffering: Why it’s a Problem and How to Prevent it.” 2022. Inquiry.
- “What would qualify an artificial intelligence for moral standing?” 2023. AI and Ethics.
At this time, we are particularly interested in work on human-computer/robot/AI interaction and ‘macro’ social science (e.g., sociology, economics) where we see important projects beyond the specializations of our current staff (primarily social and cognitive psychology). Overarching questions for the field of digital minds include:
- What digital minds will exist in short- and long-term futures?
- How will humans react to digital minds?
- What is the philosophical nature and moral worth of digital minds?
- How will digital minds interact, and what kind of society will that create?
- What strategies are most promising for improving futures with digital minds?
When SI was founded in 2017, we were primarily focused on farmed animals as the frontier of humanity's moral circle. We continue to do some work on animal issues but don’t expect it to be a key focus for a 2023 hire. We expect our future research on animal issues to be similar to our previous research, most of which is listed on our Reports page.
We want all of our research to be thoroughly vetted and publically available, and we are open to various publication formats. Our previous publications have been white papers, working papers, academic journal articles, blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, conference presentations, and a book. The best publication format depends partly on the content and audience of the work, as well as how we can support early-career researchers because some publication formats may be more useful for their professional development.
SPECIFIC TASKS AND DUTIES
This is, in general, what our researchers work on:
- Collaborate with the rest of our small team to decide what projects to pursue.
- Conduct that research fairly independently, typically with regular check-ins and peer review prior to publication. Frequent questions and meetings will be expected at the beginning, but should slow down over time as you become more familiar with the research literature and methods.
- Pursue skill development. For example, a qualitatively oriented researcher could take a statistics course online in order to develop some quantitative expertise.
- Provide assistance as needed with other research projects and ideas, mainly by reviewing research for accuracy, clarity, quality of the reasoning, and overlooked evidence.
- Depending on preferences and abilities, take on other organizational tasks, such as administrative and management work, interviews and media commentary, and meeting with and advising organizations who are interested in our research findings.
- Employment type: Full-time (US "at-will" or UK "permanent"); we may consider a contract or part-time role for exceptional candidates.
- Location: Remote; Sentience Institute is US-based (we may be able to make arrangements for international hires, but we are unable to sponsor US visas). Current staff are in the US, UK, Greece, and Australia.
- Start date: Flexible
- Work style / Supervision: Relatively independent with frequent peer feedback
- Salary: $50,000-65,000 (or international equivalent per costs of living) dependent on qualifications and need
- Paid time off: 28 days per year (all-inclusive)
- Work schedule: Flexible, around 40 hours per week
- Professional development: Employees will have opportunities to attend conferences and seminars relevant to their work and engage in other professional development opportunities.
- Job title: The exact job title is flexible (e.g. Researcher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow) depending on the experience and interests of the applicant.
- Prior research experience in academia, think tanks, another research institution, independent/freelance work, or any other context
- Expertise in at least one methodology used by SI, such as designing, running, and analyzing experiments
- Interest in research on digital minds, moral circle expansion, and other impactful research topics
- General research ability, such as being able to read and understand a wide range of qualitative and quantitative literature
- General writing ability, such as writing a paper publishable in a top peer-reviewed journal
- Ability to work mostly independently with limited structure or supervision, with a willingness to make major research decisions collaboratively with others at SI
We encourage you to apply even if you don't meet some or any of these:
- Graduate-level education, preferably a Ph.D., in the social sciences (e.g., sociology, economics, psychology) or a related field (e.g. human-computer/robot/AI interaction, computer science, applied ethics, digital humanities) or comparable non-academic research qualifications
- Comfort with navigating very open-ended research questions
- Comfort with speculation and making judgements based on limited evidence when stronger evidence is not available, including comfort with changing your mind based on new evidence
- Familiarity with the ideas of effective altruism
- Familiarity with the ideas around artificial intelligence and existential risk, and in particular artificial sentience
- Familiarity with the farmed animal movement and its strategies, particularly with the debates and research on effective animal advocacy
- Prior experience working or volunteering with organizations focused on doing the most good (e.g., effective altruism)
This is our plan for the application process, for your convenience:
- First, applicants complete the application form below, including a short statement of research interests (estimated 30 minutes to 3 hours).
- We'll contact you (very likely within two weeks) to let you know whether we will be proceeding with your application. If so, we will schedule a ~1 hour interview and give you questions to prepare for discussion.
- After the interview, if we're interested in moving forward, we'll provide a short (max 2 hours) trial project, such as providing feedback on a preregistration draft for an experiment, providing feedback on a qualitative case study, or analyzing raw data from a survey.
- After that, we may contact you with further questions before we make our final decision.
Please note that the application form requires a Google account for uploads. If you do not have a Google account you may send your responses and materials to email@example.com.
Sentience Institute is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment regardless of their race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, or veteran status.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We know job applications can take a lot of time, and we will do our best to be considerate of your schedule throughout our hiring process.