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Answer by agnode1

EA Funders could put their grants on https://www.threesixtygiving.org/ which would make them available to be searched using their search engine: https://grantnav.threesixtygiving.org/ 

It seems to be just UK focussed but there might be an international one. 

Combined conferences

Effective altruism, Epistemic institutions, Values and reflective processes

Fund teams that have roots in both EA and in other relevant fields and communities to put on conferences that bring together those communities. For example, it could be valuable to put on a conference for EA and RadicalxChange, given that there is a lot of overlap in interests but significant differences in approach. This could help bring in new ideas into EA, especially as a conference is a good way to build relationships and have lengthy, careful discussions. Other communities may also have members from different backgrounds to EAs, and so this could help increase diversity in EA. As well as conferences, this could also be done at a smaller scale with local meetups putting on events in collaboration with other meetups. 

Additional notes:

  • The 2015 Five Worlds Collide conference is an example of this. It combined effective altruism, quantified self, rationality/scientific thinking, transhumanism and artificial intelligence. However, those communities already have a lot of overlap and it would be good to explore involving communities that are less closely related to EA. 

Audio/video databases of people's experiences of problems

Values and reflective processes, Effective altruism, Research that can help us improve, epistemic institutions

Grantmakers and policymakers are usually far removed from the problems that people face in their daily lives, especially from the problems of people who are more marginalised. Part of the solution to this should be that grantmakers and policymakers make sure to talk to a variety of people to involve them in decisionmaking. However, databases of audio and video interviews with people could also help. For example, interviews could be held with a variety of people around the world to ask them questions like "what are the main problems you face in your life?" and "how have things changed for the better or worse over your lifetime?"  Questions about values could also be asked, such as "what do you hope to see for yourself/family/community/country in the future?"

This would likely give a richer picture of people's experiences and problems than surveys, and could help distant decisionmakers understand and empathise with the situations of people they are making decisions about. 

Additional notes:

  • This process would need to be done carefully and sensitively, making sure that this doesn't become an exploitative or manipulative process. There is lots of expertise within the health research, international development, and humanitarian fields on how to do this sort of research well. Where possible, people could be supported to make their own videos about the problems that they face, in a similar way to the Photo Voice methodology
  • https://healthtalk.org/ is a useful model. A team of qualitative researchers hold interviews with people who have health conditions to understand their experience, and these are collated into a resource that includes audio and video clips from the interviews. e.g. see their section on depression: https://healthtalk.org/depression/overview
  • Anthropologists sometimes use film to understand the people they study. This project could draw on ethnographic filmmaking techniques. 

Intellectual coaching

Empowering exceptional people, Effective Altruism

Many people with the potential to do good research and writing work hit blockers that are a complex mix of psychological blockers and intellectual issues. For example uncertainty and fear around what to work on, lack of confidence in one's ability. It's difficult to find someone to help address this kind of problem. Therapists and mainstream coaches don't have a good understanding of research and EA work. But within EA most of the coaching available is focussed on career choice or productivity techniques, without the sometimes deep psychological work needed to unblock people's research potential. This fund could support the training and work of people who have the rare combination of therapeutic ability and understanding of research work. This kind of coaching could also be useful for people outside of EA within academia. 

Additional notes:

  • This idea partially stimulated by this tweet from a writing coach, which says "Okay so at this point it’s clear that the real point of my coaching is helping people unlock dormant emotions and unsuppress unacceptable elements of self through expression, although there’s prose tuneups too What do I call this Compassionate creative coaching?"

New non-academic intellectual communities

Empowering exceptional people, Values and reflective Processes

The pathologies of academia are well known, and there are many people who would like to engage with and contribute to research but once they are outside of academia they don't have the structures to do so. Recently there have been some new projects springing up to fill this gap, such as:

  • InterIntellect, where people can host and take part in online salons on any topic. The founder of this (Anna Gat) was supported by an emergent ventures grant
  • The Catharine Project, which offers free Oxbridge-style tutorials and reading groups in classic works of philosophy and literature.
  • The Stoa - less familiar with this one but I think it's a bit like InterIntellect. 

The future fund could support more communities of this kind, and particularly help them develop beyond just learning and discussing and towards enabling members to make real research contributions. It would be important not to have all the communities funded be part of EA, as it is valuable to have many types of community coming from different intellectual perspectives.

Additional notes:

  • My bias here is that I really want more of these so I can be part of them and develop my research career outside of academia. 

Multilingual web searching and browsing

Effective altruism, epistemic institutions

Despite the capability of automated translation, there is no smooth way to browse the web in multiple languages. It would be useful to have search engines return results from any language, with the results automatically translated into English. When you click on them, you then go to a web page automatically translated into English and can continue browsing in English. This seems important for EA because EA research currently relies primarily on English resources, and this could be causing bias in EA research. It would also be useful for other researchers and policy people working on global issues, e.g. in global health, to be able to research across multiple languages. 

This has been an issue I've come up against when working on global health - a funder might express an interest in learning about funding opportunities in e.g. South America or South East Asia, and this is challenging to research because of the language issue. 

EA-oriented research search engines

Effective altruism

EA researchers and people in similar roles such as grantmakers and policy analysts face a difficult search challenge. They are often trying to find high-quality resources that synthesise expert consensus in fields that are unfamiliar to them. Google often returns results that are too low-quality and popularly-oriented, but google scholar returns results that are too specific or which are only tangentally related to EA/policy/grantmaker interests. An improved search engine would return quality synthesis resources such as books, lectures, podcast episodes, expert blog posts, etc. A simple way to implement this would just be a custom search engine that searches a curated list of websites such as think tanks, blogs, etc. 

Additional notes:

  • APO is a good example of the kind of thing that is useful - it is a searchable collection of policy documents mostly from Australia and New Zealand. 
  • Possibly https://elicit.org/ is already going to be an overall solution for this. 

Synthesis book fund/prize

Senior academics or practitioners have the accumulated experience and knowledge to be able to write grand syntheses of their subjects, or to put forward grand theories, without those just being wild speculation.  This fund would proactively support and/or retroactively reward work of this type.  To make this kind of work more likely, the fund could seek out academics that seem in a particularly good place to create a work of this type and encourage them to do this. In addition, the fund could support the writing of both a popular and an academic version of the work. This could help overcome the issue where popular grand syntheses tend to be widely influential, even when they are seen as dubious by experts (e.g. as happened with Guns, Germs, and Steel). 

Examples of the kinds of works I mean: James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State, Vaclav Smil's Creating the Twentieth Century, Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Fernand Braudel's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. 

Thanks for the point about rigor - I'm not that familiar with participatory futures but had encountered it through an organisation that tends to be a bit hypey. But good to know there is rigorous work in that field. 

I agree that there are lots of opportunities to apply to EA/Longtermism and your paper sounds interesting. I'll send an email. 

I've read that experts often get frustrated with wikipedia because their work ends up getting undone by non-experts. Also there probably needs to be financial support and incentives for this kind of work. 

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