As a requirement for graduation at the College of Wooster, I wrote a year-long senior thesis project in mathematics, philosophy, and economics about the relative long-term future importance of investments in economic growth and global catastrophic risk reduction. I have been extremely fortunate to receive advice from Dr. Seth Baum of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.
This project was explicitly motivated by topics in Effective Altruism, particularly longtermism. I believe it might relevant to those interested in global priorities research.
Document: Link to PDF
This is a study about the optimal allocation of resources between investments in economic growth and global catastrophic risk reduction. Specifically, I provide an analysis of some of the main philosophical presuppositions involved in tackling this problem and explore relevant tools in mathematical economics.
I discuss different ways of conceiving of the value of economic growth. I outline some important concepts for understanding global catastrophic risks and the challenges in modelling such risks. I categorize and clarify philosophical presuppositions that are important to the project. I present a novel argument for why improving the far future may be our moral priority that is based on reductionism about personal identity. I discuss at length the Ramsey approach to optimal allocation of resources.
I provide an introduction to continuous Optimal Control Theory, a method for solving problems of dynamic maximization. I then use this method to develop my own model for the optimal investing in economic growth and global catastrophic risk reduction. The aims of this model are to illustrate the results of the philosophical discussions I consider, and to provide a picture of how standard mathematical-economics methodology can be used to tackle my research objective.