The reading list below is based on a reading list originally used for an internal GPI reading group. These reading groups are used as a way of doing an early-stage exploration of new areas that seem promising from an academic global priorities research perspective. Each topic is often used as the theme for one or two weekly discussions, and in most cases those attending the discussion will have read the suggested materials beforehand.
As I thought that it could be a valuable resource for those interested in academic global priorities research, I’m sharing it here, with permission from the authors. All the credit for the list below goes to them.
Disclaimer: The views presented in the readings suggested below do not necessarily represent views held by me, GPI, or any GPI staff member.
There are a variety of reasons why EAs might care about the notion of moral progress.
- As a cause area. Moral progress might be viewed as a cause area, in the sense that we might want to try to bring moral progress about. Plausibly, the better we understand moral progress, the better placed we will be to bring it about.
- Deferral to the Future. Moral progress might seem relevant to determining the extent to which we should defer decisions and resources to the future.
- Value of the Future. Moral progress might tell us something about the value of the future. Indeed, one of the things we might mean by “moral progress” might simply be that the future will be better than the present in morally relevant respects.
- Contingency. The question of contingency of moral progress is plausibly an important one for longtermists. In particular, if moral progress is nearly inevitable, then we might be less worried about which values shape the immediate future. Likewise, different views on the contingency of moral progress might bring different implications to our beliefs about the progress of moral behavior in artificial intelligence.
- Buchanan and Powell, Why a Theory of Moral Progress Is Needed (introduction to The Evolution of Moral Progress)
- Sauer et al., Moral Progress: Recent Developments
2. Past Trends in Progress
- Holden Karnofsky, Has Life Gotten Better blog series
3. Moral Advocacy/Moral Progress as Cause Area
- Anderson, Social Movements, Experiments in Living, and Moral Progress: Case Studies from Britain's Abolition of Slavery (warning: this reading discusses the treatment of slaves in a way that some people might find difficult; if you skip to page 3, you'll avoid much of this)
- Dickens, On Values Spreading
- Tomasik, Value Spreading is Often More Important than Extinction Risk
- Christiano, Against Moral Advocacy
- Baumann, Arguments for and Against Moral Advocacy
- Applied Divinity Studies, Does Moral Philosophy Drive Moral Progress
- Hill and Sevilla, Attempt at Understanding the Role of Moral Philosophy in Moral Progress
4. Contingency of Moral Values and Progress
- MacAskill, What We Owe the Future, chapters 3 and 4
5. The Sign of the Future
- MacAskill, What We Owe the Future, chapter 9
- Tomasik, Risks of Astronomical Future Suffering
6. Moral Circle Expansion
- Gwern, The Narrowing Circle
- Jacy Reese, Why I Prioritise Moral Circle Expansion Over Artificial Intelligence Alignment
7. Evolution and Biomedical Enhancement
- Buchanan and Powell, Toward a Naturalistic Theory of Moral Progress
- Sauer, Butchering Benevolence: Moral Progress Beyond the Expanding Circle
- Buchanan and Powell, Biomedical Moral Enhancement and Moral Progress (chapter 11 of The Evolution of Moral Progress)
- Persson and Savulescu, The Evolution of Moral Progress and Biomedical Moral Enhancement
8. Further Reading
- Nick Bostrom, The Future of Human Evolution
- Carl Shulman, Spreading Happiness to the Stars Seems Little Harder Than Just Spreading
- Brian Tomasik, The Future of Darwinism