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This post is a continuation of my earlier “Modeling Moral Trade in Antibiotic Resistance and Alternative Proteins.” Here I’ll give some ideas for ways to generate more surplus when making a moral trade.

Moral Trade Marketplace

Fundamental to an efficient market is a marketplace. While I can’t make a fancy website to facilitate transactions (though I can imagine the potential for one in the future), I can make a Google Doc. If you want to get in on the action and find others to make moral trades with, go to the new Moral Trade Marketplace. It’s simple, but it should allow you to find others who have values and beliefs that differ such that you can trade.

Identify Opportunities

Finding more opportunities for trade will, of course, generate more surplus. One way to start would be to list rough cost-effectiveness estimates for different interventions by worldview and seeing which ones could generate surplus. I’ve started to do so here, but it would be easy to develop further. You could find potential traders by looking at previous grants from EA funders and finding others who have funded the same organizations.

Trade off the Negatives First

One way to generate more surplus is to trade off funding for the intervention that the other worldview finds least cost-effective, or even negative. For example, if environmental and nonhuman animal-focused people were trading, the nonhuman animal-focused people might request that the environmental people take funding from a rewilding program instead of a solar research program to reallocate to the alternate intervention.

People may be incentivized to engage in activities that are lower rated according to worldviews they don’t hold, since they may get better terms for trading them off. However, a competitive market should filter this out, and it may not be difficult to determine when someone is doing this.

Add More Parties

Add more parties to the trade. While the default might be a trade between two actors, adding more distinct worldview holders will increase the potential for surplus. Calculations can be seen here for a three worldview trade. However, with more worldviews, more time and effort must go into establishing trust, reviewing historical records, and debating cost-effectiveness estimates. In many cases, especially with larger trades, I would expect the increased possible surplus to overcome this challenge.

Popularize Moral Trade

As part of this, it’s important to know actors with a wide range of moral views, including both those inside and outside of the EA community. It’s also important that they be open to learning about moral trade and take seriously the option of engaging in one. Those with more money, and moral views that are less likely to change, will be able to make more and larger trades over time. More actors in the market will make it more competitive and efficient.

Thanks to Quentin Mot for feedback on this post.

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