The philosopher Nick Beckstead has distinguished between two different ways of influencing the long-term future: broad interventions, which "focus on unforeseeable benefits from ripple effects", and narrow (or targeted) interventions, which "aim for more specific effects on the far future, or aim at a relatively narrow class of possible ripple effects." (Beckstead 2013a)

Clarifying the distinction

The chain of causation connecting an intervention with its intended effect can be analysed along two separate dimensions. One dimension concerns the number of causal steps in the chain. Another dimension concerns the number of causal paths in the chain. In one sense of the term, broad interventions involve both many steps and many paths, while narrow interventions involve both few steps and few paths. For example, the broad intervention of promoting peace can reduce existential risk in countless different ways, each of which involves a long sequence of events culminating in the risk reduction. By contrast, the narrow intervention of distributing bed nets saves lives in just one way (by protecting people from mosquito bites) and in just a few steps (distribution > installation > protection).

However, interventions with many causal steps may have few causal paths, and interventions with many causal paths may have few causal steps. It is therefore convenient to have separate terms for each of these dimensions of variation. Some effective altruists reserve the terms "narrow" and "broad" for interventions with few or many causal paths, and use the terms "direct" and "indirect" for interventions with few or many causal steps (Cotton-Barratt 2015)....

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