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You're a history nerd, and Big EA accepts your $10M grant application to open a para-academic history department. 

What specializations do you look for for your first hires, what projects do you think provide the highest value of information? 

I think an EA historian would write distillations and explainers of key macro trends, find beliefs about history that a lot of EAs share and redteam them, and search for new ideas in the historical record. But it's your para-department, you can use it however you like! 

Go ahead and leave one discrete answer per project. 

Prior comments about this: 




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Analyze community/movement/capacity -building in the Industrial Workers of the World in the early 20th century the way we analyze contemporary EA community/movement/capacity -building. 

Actionable insights I would expect:  My understanding is that the IWW gets a great deal of shapley points for the 8-hour workday. Setting aside any implicit claim that the 8-hour workday increased wellbeing (which would be another project for an evaluator/historian), we ought to marvel at this accomplishment, because it persisted in spite of the first red scare. I expect the calculus formed by their goals, accomplishments, and decline (along with other major actors in the story) holds lessons about how to make your goals persist even if your movement gets hunted down in the end. The movement/community/capacity building connection is just that they sent students unionists across the country to infiltrate universities workplaces bringing information and resources to altruists fellow workers, because doing so was critical to their theory of change. The major difference is, by my understanding, they used songs to recruit and educate, whereas our treasured solstice songs are more internal. 

Who has agency in hingey moments? (see also my prior EAF questions here and here). 

Actionable insights I would expect: having agency over hinges is a grave privilege, a very sobering responsibility. How seriously should we take egalitarian arguments that abdicating this responsibility is actually morally superior to doing our best job with it? Are there heuristics that prior wielders of this privilege considered that would be good or bad for us to consider? 

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In terms of beating Jim Crow in the US and getting the black vote, can we assign shapley points to armed and unarmed factions of the movement? My rough sense is that historians are ideologically or aesthetically divided here, people on both sides (armed wing gets more shapley points vs. unarmed wing gets more shapley points) seem to have an axe to grind. I'm especially interested in how activists reasoned about coalitioning with people they disagreed with on this key point

Actionable insights I would expect: if we hone our reasoning about social change and diversity of tactics, we can make much more intentional decisions about what ought to be in the community overton window and who to coalition with. 

More broadly, I think the black civil rights movement is great to study because they had goals that were more unpopular than EA goals, so they probably learned stuff that we could use if we ever became way more unpopular than we are now. 

Combine leftist accounts of the history of capitalism and labor-focused views with Muehlhauser's posts about the industrial revolution

Actionable insights I would expect: If we better understand how enormous schelling points that are difficult to opt out of (like capitalism) operate in hingey environments, we might have a fighting chance of calculating counterfactually useful/informative interventions the next time GWP 10x's quickly. 

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