I’m a research fellow in philosophy at the Global Priorities Institute. There are many things I like about effective altruism. I’ve started a blog to discuss some views and practices in effective altruism that I don’t like, in order to drive positive change both within and outside of the movement.
I’m a research fellow in philosophy at the Global Priorities Institute, and a Junior Research Fellow at Kellogg College. Before coming to Oxford, I did a PhD in philosophy at Harvard under the incomparable Ned Hall, and BA in philosophy and mathematics at Haverford College. I held down a few jobs along the way, including a stint teaching high-school mathematics in Lawrence, Massachusetts and a summer gig as a librarian for the North Carolina National Guard. I’m quite fond of dogs.
Who should read this blog?
The aim of the blog is to feature (1) long-form, serial discussions of views and practices in and around effective altruism, (2) driven by academic research, and from a perspective that (3) shares a number of important views and methods with many effective altruists.
This blog might be for you if:
- You would like to know why someone who shares many background views with effective altruists could nonetheless be worried about some existing views and practices.
- You are interested in learning more about the implications of academic research for views and practices in effective altruism.
- You think that empirically-grounded philosophical reflection is a good way to gain knowledge about the world.
- You have a moderate amount of time to devote to reading and discussion (20-30mins/post).
- You don't mind reading series of overlapping posts.
This blog might not be for you if:
- You would like to know why someone who has little in common with effective altruists might be worried about the movement.
- You aren’t keen on philosophy, even when empirically grounded.
- You have a short amount of time to devote to reading.
- You like standalone posts and hate series.
The blog is primarily organized around series of posts, rather than individual posts. I’ve kicked off the blog with four series.
- Academic papers: This series summarizes cutting-edge academic research relevant to questions in and around the effective altruism movement.
- Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils:
- Part 1 introduces a tension between Existential Risk Pessimism (risk is high) and the Astronomical Value Thesis (it’s very important to drive down risk).
- Part 2 looks at some failed solutions to the tension.
- Part 3 looks at a better solution: the Time of Perils Hypothesis.
- Part 4 looks at one argument for the Time of Perils Hypothesis, which appeals to space settlement.
- Part 5 looks at a second argument for the Time of Perils Hypothesis, which appeals to the concept of an existential risk Kuznets curve.
- Parts 6-8 (coming soon) round out the paper and draw implications.
- Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils:
- Academics review What we owe the future: This series looks at book reviews of MacAskill’s What we owe the future by leading academics to draw out insights from those reviews.
- Exaggerating the risks: I think that current levels of existential risk are substantially lower than many leading EAs take them to be. In this series, I say why I think that.
- Billionaire philanthropy: What is the role of billionaire philanthropists within the EA movement and within a democratic society? What should that role be?
- Part 1 introduces the series.
I’ll try to post at least one a week for the next few months. Comment below to tell me what sort of content you would like to see.
A disclaimer: I am writing in my personal capacity
I am writing this blog in my personal capacity. The views expressed in this blog are not the views of the Global Priorities Institute, or of Oxford University. In fact, many of my views diverge strongly from views accepted by some of my colleagues. Although many hands have helped me to shape this blog, the views expressed are mine and mine alone.
Q: Is this just a way of making fun of effective altruism?
A: Absolutely not. In writing this blog, I am not trying to ridicule effective altruism, to convince you that effective altruism is worthless, to convince effective altruists to abandon the movement, or to contribute to the destruction of effective altruism.
I take effective altruism seriously. I have been employed for several years by the Global Priorities Institute, a research institute at Oxford University dedicated to foundational academic research on how to do good most effectively. I have organized almost a dozen workshops on global priorities research. I have presented my work at other events within the effective altruism community, including several EAG and EAGx conferences. I have consulted for Open Philanthropy, posted on the EA Forum, and won prizes for my posts.
A view that I share with effective altruists is that it is very important to learn to do good better. I will count myself successful if some of my posts help others to do good better.
Q: Why not just post on the EA Forum? Why is a new blog needed?
A: The EA forum is an important venue for discussions among effective altruists. I’ve posted on the EA Forum in the past, and won prizes for my post.
As an academic, I aim to write for a broad audience. While I certainly hope that EAs will read and engage with my work (that’s why I’m posting here!), I also want to make my work accessible to others who might not usually read the EA Forum.
Q: I’d like to talk to you about X (something I liked; something I didn’t like; a guest post; etc.). How do I do that?
A: Post here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t bite, I promise.
Please comment below to let me know what you think and what you’d like to see. If you like the blog, consider subscribing, liking or sharing. If you don’t like the blog, my cat wrote it. If you really hate the blog, it was my neighbor’s cat.