4 karmaJoined Sep 2022


Great work! Nice, concise video that got to the heart of a really important problem.

I'm curious to know if you came across anything in your research about the most effective levers scientists currently have to affect change. As much as I'd like to see an institutional reinvention of the scientist as a scientist/statesman hybrid, it seems a bit vague and pollyannish as a proposed solution. My intuition is that a few scientists might excel in both domains, but it's unrealistic to expect statesmanship to be a part of the regular curriculum. Additionally, if a large number of people come to speak the language of power and politics, wouldn't those in power simply change their language to maintain influence?

I'm also skeptical about public awareness as net-positive by default. I can imagine it might work better in a case like nuclear weaponry where the only purpose of the technology is to kill, and the feedback loops are short (everyone gets exploded very quickly, and you have regular drills to prepare for The Bomb), and might fail in cases like Climate Change with high uncertainty, entrenched power structures (energy companies) and slow feedback loops. Did you come across any research regarding public pressure as a power mechanism?

(Epistemic status: Vague intuition and curiosity)

Again, great job on the video! Can't wait to see more.

Brilliant! I see this conversation as an opportunity for great insights into the practical unfolding of moral circle expansion, the evolution/structure of social movements as a whole, and the benefits/limitations of using historical analysis to understand and predict the behavior of complex social systems.

  • What role, if any, did advances in technology play in the abolition of slavery?
    • From your understanding, are moral changes enabled by technology, or are they orthogonal to technological advancement?
  • What implications do differing views on the causes of abolition have on our understanding of the contemporary world? For instance, in contemporary movements such as EA, how should we update our behaviors if we discovered strong evidence that abolition was motivated predominantly by moral concerns, rather than economic concerns?
  • What parallels do you see between abolition and contemporary social movements that seek to expand our moral circles? Does hindsight from the context of abolition easily translate into foresight for these contemporary situations?
  • In what ways did individuals justify the institution of slavery to themselves and to others? Do you see any parallels (for instance, motivated reasoning and making convenient exceptions to our core values) taking place today?
  • How much do you believe abolition hinged on the actions of a small number of key individuals in positions of power, relative to the general change in public opinion? What does this suggest about EA strategies for moral circle expansion?
  • Are there any specific methods of historical analysis that you believe would be especially useful in predicting and guiding the future trajectory of humanity? How do you, as a historian, go about understanding causal mechanisms when looking at complex systems?