Similar to Mark Xu’s concerns about Meta-EA, and Lizka’s on IIDM, I see lots of work in farmed animal welfare, with no clear explicated path/Theory of Victory.
Obviously this could just be due to my own ignorance, but often I find asking dumb questions to be helpful in both learning and education, as I’m sure others have been confused about the same thing.
So I’d be interested in seeing a sketch of what Theory of Victory people are either explicitly or implicitly drawing on.
“Victory” here can mean many things, but in the spirit of high ambition, I’m interested in operationalizations like a) the complete end of factory farming or b) enough success to a point where all or almost all of the current EA farmed animal welfare folks willingly choose to leave the field to work on other projects (e.g., biosecurity, broad longtermism, s-risks, wild animal welfare, etc).
Some toy examples I can imagine (Note these are very toy models, not to be taken too seriously):
1. (slow/no Transformative AI (TAI) baseline, Western hegemony). Assuming cost-competitive cultured or plant-based meat is plausible. We work hard on speeding up meat alternative timelines, while simultaneously pushing for broad support for welfare and antipathy towards factory farming companies. If/once meat alternatives are cheap and good enough, this in conjunction with large-scale disapproval of factory farming is enough to swing more and more legislation in our favor, eventually culminating in more and more countries banning factory farming outright. We all eat alternative proteins, factory farming legally ends.
2. (medium-term TAI) Something directly relating to AI. Assume mediumish timelines and good AI safety progress. If there is enough elite support for animal welfare, especially for people in decisionmaking positions for TAI (e.g. major AI scientists, all the heads of labs, AI gov folks), that any aligned plan for the future would not involve large-scale animal suffering. Magic happens, animals don’t suffer.
3. (slow/no TAI, technological/economic cornucopia in other domains). TAI itself turned out to be very hard, but progress in ML and other scientific domains accelerate. Plant-based meat stalls out at a high price point, and cultured meat continues to look too expensive to be directly competitive. But we do a really strong job of moral circle expansion, such that once the entire world is rich enough, people voluntarily stop eating meat and eat just as tasty but much more expensive alternatives.
4. (slow/no TAI, business-as-usual technological growth, no strong priors on hegemony). Plant-based and cultured meat fails to pan out, but EAs systematically explore a wide range of alternative protein options, eventually coming across several replacements that systematically go down in price over decades. Concurrently, people work on corporate campaigns, welfare regulations, carbon taxes, and other measures that systematically increases the price of meat. Eventually, the two curves cross, and a combination of economic and political pressures slowly phase out factory farming.
Of course, these models are far from detailed enough. That’s why they aren’t real Theories of Victory! And in some ways they are too detailed (I don’t believe in any of them that much). But I offer this question here in the hopes that others have substantially more detailed theories, especially people working in leadership organizations in EAA, or researchers working on animal welfare prioritization questions.
Thanks to Lizka for first bringing this question to my attention, Saulius for Slack prompts in this general direction, and Neil_Dullaghan for verbally brainstorming this question with me.
Note: An earlier draft of this post had a Theory of Victory with Chinese hegemony in mind. I was asked to take it down. I ask that other people also do not speculate on this public question with a ToV focused on Chinese hegemony, so I don’t have to worry too much about moderation.
Oof at the two downvotes immediately after posting. 😅
Sigh, here you go:
Sorry I wasn't fishing for upvotes. Please retract your upvote if you didn't originally want to upvote, thanks. :)