80,000 Hours just released their latest podcast episode, an interview with Christian Tarsney from the Global Priorities Institute. Topics discussed:

  • "Future bias", or why people seem to care more about their future experiences than about their past experiences.
  • A possible solution to moral fanaticism, where you can end up preferring options that give you only a very tiny chance of an astronomically good outcome over options that give you certainty of a very good outcome
  • How much of humanity’s resources we should spend on improving the long-term future
  • How large the expected value of the continued existence of Earth-originating civilization might be
  • How we should respond to uncertainty about the state of the world
  • The state of global priorities research

You can listen to the episode here or read the transcript here.

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I think Tarsney is awesome in this episode... but maybe missed two opportunities here: i. The Berry Paradox is super cool, but the Paradox of the Question is equally addictive, and basically can be seen as a joke on Global Priorities studies. But yeah, some people say it's not so paradoxical after all... ii. one can also look at the temporal asymmetry as a problem affecting intergenerational cooperation: if you don't consider the interests of antecessors as (equally) important, then you can expect your successors will do the same to you, and you have fewer reasons to invest on the future. Even if you do have something like altruistic preferences towards future people, that preference is irrelevant for them. (Actually, I'm sort of surprised about how rare contractualist-like accounts of intertemporal justice are in EA literature - except for Sandberg's piece on Rawls)

Because people in the far future can't benefit us, save for immortality/revival scenarios, would contractualism give us much reason to ensure they come to exist, i.e. to continue to procreate and prevent extinction? Also, do contractualist theories tend to imply the procreation asymmetry, or even antinatalism?

It seems like contractualism and risk are tricky to reconcile, according to Frick, but he makes an attempt in his paper, Contractualism and Social Risk, discussed more briefly in section 1. Ethics of Risk here.

Well, you're right that intergenerational cooperation lacks straight reciprocity... but we do have chains of cooperation that extend across time and often depend on the expectation that future people will sustain it - e g., think about pension funds and longterm debt, or maybe even just plain cultural transmission