If you would like to do research on any of the fields and movements listed below, including those listed in the Appendix, I might be able to provide funding. Get in touch.

Latest update: 20 September 2022

Years ago, I compiled a list of writings by members of the EA community focused on fields and movements of interest to EA. The list seems to have spread organically and every couple of months someone messages me with comments or questions about it. Although the list is probably incomplete, it seems sufficiently comprehensive to justify publication on the EA Forum. Please let me know, by contacting me or leaving a comment, if you notice any omissions.

I'd also like to single out some fields and movements that I believe would be useful to investigate but have so far received little or no EA attention. These are included as an Appendix to the post.

The list

American geriatrics

Animal rights movement

Anti-abortion movement

Anti-death-penalty movement

Anti-nuclear movement

Antislavery movement

Behavioral economics

Bioethics

Children's rights

Christianity

Confucianism

Cryonics

Effective philanthropy

Environmentalism

Evidence-based medicine

Fabianism

Fair trade

Fat acceptance movement

General semantics

Marriage equality

Mohism

Molecular nanotechnology

Neoliberalism

New atheism

Prisoner human rights movement

Rationalist movement

Scientific charity movement

Spanish Enlightenment

Appendix

Some fields and movements EAs may want to study more:

See also this list by Luke Muehlhauser.

  1. ^

    See this comment by Tyner for an explanation of why this movement may be worth studying.

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Summary: My experience of hundreds of hours of research has taught me that it can't be overstated how much EA has underestimated the value of information to learn on the subject of socialism. A piecemeal review of only one kind of socialism would be misrepresent and limit how much EA can learn. The only adequate representation would be a review of how liberalism, socialism and utilitarianism have all fundamentally shaped each other over 200 years. It may be that can only be achieved through something like a book-length work a researcher receives funding to work on full-time (or maybe part-time).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

I volunteered a couple years ago to take a dive into socialism in relation to EA. I didn't specify how deep a dive it would be because I didn't know how deep I'd have to go. It was the deepest dive I've ever taken.

I've learned much but I haven't published much in the ways of summaries of what I've learned. Why I haven't is because it has been too hard to prioritize what information would be most valuable for the EA community to learn from.

I've thought about doing an AMA.  Yet I haven't because I've felt it'd be almost futile. I expect most others in EA don't understand the relevant subject matter well enough to know the right questions to ask to get the most value out of the information. Even for those who do, I'm not confident I'll know how to answer their questions in a way that adequately transmits the full value of the information.

The most relevant lesson I've learned about socialism in relation to EA is the whole community has underestimated how much there is to learn. I anticipated what I'd learn worth presenting to the EA community could be summarized in only one or a few articles on the EA Forum, like those written on neoliberalism, or the couple shallow overviews there have been of Marxism as the primary approach in history to what's called 'scientific socialism.' 

Writing a comprehensive review of only one kind of socialism in a piecemeal way would be of limited value because it would not show the far greater value of a whole body of knowledge. To cover as broad a topic as broad as the relationship between EA and "capitalism" or "socialism" would fit better in a book. Why is that liberalism and socialism, the two predominant modern ideologies, and utilitarianism, the main precursor to EA in history, have all dynamically shaped each other for 200 years. 

The social, intellectual and political history that shaped EA can't be understood without understanding that set of relationships. It has all reframed my own understanding of EA as much if not more than anything else I've ever learned. It's to the point that an adequate review may only be feasible by funding someone to do the research.

This sounds interesting, though I feel slightly confused. I can see why socialism would be a useful thing to know about, but not why it's so much more interesting and useful than, e.g., neoliberalism. I'd also be pretty interested to hear more about how it relates to EA's historical and cultural influences. I guess you're right that I don't even know what the right questions to ask about this are.

If this work is as important as you say here then it seems like a lot of value is being left on the table. Seems like it would be really helpful if you could write out a few bullet points of what needs to be done to get to that stage and how others might be able to help, then reach out to EA Funds or someone else with a proposal.

A mistake EA as a community made, and, again, this includes me, is to consider these ideologies and the movements they've inspired in mostly contemporary terms. Never mind socialism, beyond only neo-liberalism, liberalism  itself in relation to EA could be the subject of its own book-length work. Here are some examples of what I mean for all of this:

  • John Stuart Mill is one of the fathers of utilitarianism. Along with early modern economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, he is also one of the fathers of liberalism. That's what most in EA already know. Here is what they probably wouldn't know and I didn't either. While each of those intellectuals initially favoured capitalism, during their lifetimes they concluded as capitalism developed that its (presumably) inexorable tendency to concentrate wealth would generate monopolies destructive to a sufficiently free and utility-maximizing market economy. That's why they embraced what's called 'liberal socialism,' a market economy that mostly formed of small-to-medium-sized firms owned by individual owner-operators or collectively by workers.  
     
  • Beyond the many scientists of the Manhattan Project and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to follow doing their utmost to minimize the chance of nuclear war, the Cold War also shaped the politics of efforts to reduce other global catastrophic risks. That included the following generations of scientists likely preventing the deaths of tens of millions by facilitating states on both sides of the Iron Curtain, be it developing a smallpox vaccine, or ratifying the 1987 Montreal Accord

Navigating the tensions between two systems like capitalism and socialism, or liberalism and Marxism, has been a necessary task to maximize marginal utility continuously undertaken by the movements that have most inspired EA for almost 200 years. That history is the history of how politics has shaped EA.

Seems like it would be really helpful if you could write out a few bullet points of what needs to be done to get to that stage and how others might be able to help.

I can figure out the steps others can take to help once I know what else to do first. I'm not confident what those steps might be but I'm not sure what you mean by what "needs to get done." If you can clarify what you mean, that may help me know what the next step is.

Also, if you mean that I personally submit a proposal for a research grant to the EA Funds or whatever, me doing this myself would work. There are more fitting candidates than me I can ask if they'd be willing. I could also collaborate with them. 

[+][comment deleted]7mo -1

Cool list! I wrote a few other social movement case studies not on this list when I was working at Sentience Institute.

(I think they're more relevant to the farmed animal movement than to the effective altruism community but if this was an intentional rather than accidental exclusion, I would be interested to hear reasons why SI's anti-slavery and Fair Trade case studies merit inclusion here but the others don't.)

Anti abortion movement: https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/anti-abortion

Anti death penalty movement: https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/death-penalty

Prisoners rights movement (less relevant, IMO): https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/prisoners-rights

Additionally, you highlighted the anti-nuclear movement as worthy of further study. The focus was on the proliferation of nuclear power, but J (another former SI researcher) wrote a cool case study report which includes some interesting info about the anti-nuclear movement: https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/nuclear-power-clean-meat

Thanks—added.

Re antislavery, there are a few more sources on this by EAAs. 

Thanks—added.

The field of "technological assessment" could also be a good case study.

Thanks. Do you have any recommended readings?

I don't. Maybe it fizzled too soon for many to write about it..

Amnesty International seems like another case that would be worth understanding better:

  • cosmopolitan, secular, broad and somewhat abstract principles
  • strong presence as university groups (at least in Germany)
  • 10 million "supporters" according to the Wikipedia article
  • sobering  reports of "toxic culture" in the main offices (bullying, sexism & racism) despite what I assume to be well-meaning people

There are some movements mentioned above I've studied to varying degrees of breadth and depth but informally. I might do some shorter write-ups about parts of those movements informative to EA but don't cover the complete scope of what the community would want to learn from them. If others in EA have also studied these movements or would be willing to collaborate on researching them, please let me know.

  •  Anti-nuclear movement
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Cognitive Revolution
  • Socialism (including Marxism, communism and anarchism)
  • Technocracy movement
  • Women's rights movement (mostly in but not exclusively limited to Western countries)

RE: Fat acceptance/size acceptance

Outside of the writings this post links to within this forum, there are a few sources that provide a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding this movement that might be useful to anyone beginning an investigation. I have listed them below with the first entry providing a quick introduction to the issue. For those with more time the remaining sources are books that provide a more in-depth examination of fat acceptance and the influence of the diet industry from varying perspectives. 

Michael Orsini and Deborah McPhail “Fat Acceptance As Social Justice” (CMAJ 2021)—a short two page overview of the intersections of the fat acceptance movements with social justice issues

Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (2019)

Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body is Not An Apology (2nd edition 2021)

Christy Harrison, Anti-Diet (2019)

Alison Rumsey, Unapologetic Eating (2021)

Da’Shaun Harrison, Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness (2021)