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Key takeaways

  • Apply for a 9-week online Longtermism Fellowship here until September 15th.
  • A graduate course at LMU Munich forms the basis for this course, and we hope to decrease the uncertainty about your belief in longtermism.




 

EA Munich will run a Longtermism Fellowship for 8-9 consecutive weeks starting in the first week of October. For each meeting, you should plan at least 60 min preparation time in advance for readings (mostly academic philosophy papers) and 90 min for the discussion itself. If you cannot attend one meeting for whatever reason, that's fine, but if you want to get the participation certificate, you will have to submit a write-up for sessions you did not attend (same as in the Virtual Programs). Upon graduation, we will offer LinkedIn certificates for active participants. The online and in-English course is based on a philosophical graduate course. The instructor of the Fellowship will be Bill D’Alessandro, a Postdoctoral Fellow in philosophy at Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) Munich. Bill will also offer office hours besides moderating the discussion group. Probably we will offer one big session per week with breakout rooms to discuss and Bill as moderator for clarifying questions.


 

Preliminary primary Readings of the Syllabus 


 

Week 1: Introduction to Longtermism

  • Nick Beckstead, “The case for shaping the far future”


 

Week 2: Future people

  • Elizabeth Harman, “Can we harm and benefit in creating?”


 

Week 3: Population axiology

  • Hilary Greaves, “Population axiology”


 

Week 4: AI risk

  • Nick Bostrom, “Is the default outcome doom?”, “The control problem” (from Superintelligence)


 

Week 5: Cluelessness

  • Christian Tarsney, “The epistemic challenge to longtermism”


 

Week 6: Predicting and deciding

  • Andreas Mogensen and Will MacAskill, “The paralysis argument”


 

Week 7: If longtermism is true, then what?

  • Will MacAskill, “What to do” (from What We Owe the Future)


 

Week 8: Criticisms of longtermism

  • Phil Torres, “The case against longtermism”


 

Week 9: Participant presentations (optional)

  • ~30 min for presentation and discussion for each participant



 

Who should apply?

We expect this Fellowship to be most helpful for people interested in exploring and critically engaging with longtermism. Whether you believe longtermism is true could have an immense impact on your career or donation decisions. Since we know many EAs who are deeply unsure about longtermism, this Fellowship could have a massive impact if the discussions lead to an inside view of longtermism. There are no formal requirements for applying, like majoring in philosophy, but an (informal) interest in philosophy is desirable for reading and discussing academic papers. If you’ve read this far, we strongly recommend applying for the Longtermism Fellowship until September 15th. You can participate from everywhere, but be aware of the different time zones. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.




 

Apply as a Fellow until September 15th!



 

Thanks to Jaime and Bill, with whom I organize the Fellowship jointly.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:25 AM

I'm surprised by the reading assigned for week 8. The article is very low quality and highly intellectually dishonest. I very much doubt that you would have included a defense of longtermism of comparably poor standards of quality and honesty—and none of the articles you did include are remotely comparable along those two dimensions—, so it is perplexing to see it part of your syllabus. This does a disservice to longtermism and also, and especially, to its critics, who deserve to be better represented.

We agree that the Torres piece is annoying and, to some extent irresponsible and unfair. And it’s certainly true that there are more sober, thoughtful, penetrating criticisms of specific aspects of longtermism. 

Our reasons for including the piece anyway are: (1) It’s probably the single most well-known attack on longtermism, and it’s helpful to know what kinds of objections have made it out into the world and gotten traction outside the EA bubble. (2) It bundles together many criticisms in one place, so we don’t have to read four or five different essays. (3) We think it’s healthy to hear outside-view criticisms that don’t shy away from denouncing the whole longtermist program. (4) Although Torres focuses too much on (particular interpretations of) Bostrom as a stand-in for longtermism generally, some of his worries about Bostromism do a good job raising tricky and essential questions.

We wish there were a piece that did a similar amount of useful things without so many flaws, but we don’t know of any!

That said, we think Scott Alexander’s recent piece on longtermism is pretty good, and maybe we should read that too.

I'm glad you're running this! It seems valuable to have reading programs focused on such an important question.

But I wonder whether a better goal for the program might be to help people to engage with the ideas and figure out their views either way, rather than to increase people's confidence that longtermism is correct[1].

I think that this is better even if your motivation is to increase the number of people who agree with longtermism - convincing people of specific conclusions seems worse for community epistemics, and might seem offputtingly dogmatic to some people.

  1. ^

    I understood "we hope to decrease the uncertainty about your belief in longtermism" to mean "we hope to increase your confidence in longtermism being correct", although is it a bit ambiguous.

You are right that we could have phrased it better. However, it is not about convincing people of specific conclusions but about engaging in a deeper way with the topic. Every week there will be open discussions and the last week deals explicitly with Criticisms of longtermism

Sounds great!

Hi! I'm interested in applying, but I'm just a little concerned about the 6-hour difference between our timezones (I'm from the Philippines) since I'll be having in-person classes around that period.  Wanted to ask if what around what time/s the discussions would likely be taking place? Thank you!

This depends also on your demand. You can apply now, and it's OK if you can't come because the discussion time is terrible for you. After looking at the timetable, I think doing it afternoons is the best option at the moment. Sadly, then it's pretty late in the Philippines :(also depends

Just checked the timetable and I think some of the times are doable for me if the discussions will only be held once a week. :) I'll apply in the meantime. Thanks!

Hi, I'm interested in this topic but never engaged with EA until now, considering that your LMU-newsletter E-Mail made me come in contact with this philosophy for the first time. What would be my chances of participating? Do you limit participation size and, if so, is it even worth applying? Kind regards

I think it's worth applying if you have some interest in philosophy and we expect to accept most applicants. You can also look at EA Virtual Programs https://www.effectivealtruism.org/virtual-programs , but I hope I have convinced you to apply :-)

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