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Hi Joshua!

Thanks for the kind words and for this question. For confidentiality reasons, the team can’t provide details of the institutions and roles of XPT participants. However, because several of our recruitment channels were EA-adjacent or directly related to existential risks (e.g. we recruited some experts via a post on the EA Forum and reached out to some organizations working on x-risks), our prior is that the XPT biorisk experts are more concerned about catastrophic and existential risks than would, say, a sample of attendees at the Global Health Security Conference. So, you’re right that it shouldn’t be taken as representative sample of biosecurity or biorisk experts. It is also unclear to us what that sampling frame would look like, in general. I can see this wasn’t clear in the post, so I’ve edited/added some text to the ‘Participants’ and concluding sections in the post.

Edits (bold is new text):

  • Participants section:
    "Experts were recruited through advertising and outreach to relevant organizations organizations working on existential risk, and relevant academic departments and research labs.As this study partially recruited experts based on the study of existential and catastrophic risks, this participant group shouldn’t be taken as a representative sample of people who may be considered biorisk experts."
  • Concluding section:
    "It’s also worth noting that for some questions, there were only a small number of expert respondents, and even the full group of biorisk experts may not is unlikely to be representative of the field, given we aimed to recruit some experts with an interest in existential risk."

"When I believed [that personal identity is what matters], I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my life and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. Other people are closer. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others."
- Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons

I wonder if it might be helpful to modify your claim (i) to be more similar to Hilary’s definition by referring to intrinsic value rather than mattering morally. Eg. Something like:

(i) Lives situated in the future have just as much intrinsic value as lives situated in the present

I think that wording could be improved but to me it seems like it does a better job of conveying:

“For any populations of people p, and any permutation with respect to time of that population that keeps the wellbeing levels of all individuals the same, p’, p and p’ are equally good."

As well as making allowance for special relationships and personal prerogatives, this also allows for the idea that the current generation holds some additional instrumental value (in enabling/affecting future generations) in addition to our intrinsic value. To me this instrumental value would have some impact on the extent to which people matter morally.

I think if you acknowledge that current populations may have some greater value (eg by virtue of instrumental value) then you would need to make claim (ii) stronger, eg. "society currently over-privileges those who live today above those who will live in the future".

I appreciate that “matter just as much, morally” is a stronger statement (and perhaps carries some important meaning in philosophy of which I’m ignorant?). I think it also sounds nicer, which seems important for an idea that you want to have broad appeal. But perhaps its ambiguity (as I perceive it) leaves it more open to objections.

Also, FWIW I disagree with the idea that (i) could be replaced with “Those who live at future times matter morally”. It doesn’t seem strong enough and I don’t think (iii) would flow from that and (ii) as it is. So I think if you did change to this weaker version of (i) it would be even more important to make (ii) stronger.

Thanks for writing this! I agree it’s helpful to have terms clearly defined, and appreciate the degree of clarity you’re aiming for here.

I agree with Holly when she says:

“we should have some way of distinguishing the view that time at which something occurs is morally arbitrary from a view that prioritizes acting today to try to affect the long-run future”.

To me this seems to be differentiating between a strictly value claim (like Hilary’s) and one that combines value and empirical claims (like yours). So maybe it’s worth defining something like Hilary’s definition (or claim (i) in your definition) with another term (eg Holly’s suggestion of 'temporal cosmopolitanism' or something else like that). And at the same time defining longtermism as something that combines that value claim (or a version of it) with the empirical claim that society today is behaving in a way that is in conflict with this value claim, to create a normative claim about what we should do.

Hi Larks,

Thanks very much for linking that Williams and Ceci article. That was really interesting and quite heartening. I say heartening because I don’t think the bias being shown in that article is unfair. I think the gender of the candidate is a relevant factor in this instance, and in this scenario preferring women when all else is equal will ultimately lead to better outcomes for society.

Those decisions are being made in a context of women being underrepresented in the fields* and I think science is a field where equality in gender representation carries instrumental value. I think this instrumental value comes from provision of new perspectives and minimising blind spots, creating an environment conducive to all people contributing their best, and working towards a stronger applicant pool in the future, one where talented women aren’t discouraged from pursuing careers in these fields. So at this point in time, to me it seems that, all else being equal, being female makes you a more valuable candidate in those fields. This may change in the future if parity in representation is reached; in that case I think it could be unfair and potentially damaging for science and society if there was a persistent bias in favour of females.

To take a different example, I think gender equality is also valuable in school teaching. If I were a school principal and the vast majority of my teaching faculty were female I think I have good reason to prefer a male candidate for a new position if all else was equal in applications.

I think Kelly's recommendations are aimed at someone who has decided that they want to improve diversity in their organisation/field, so it seems fine to be explicit about when tactics are or aren't helpful for this particular aim. She's given some reasons why diversity might be valuable in general but of course the value of diversity will vary depending on the field and context. If you don’t agree that gender equality carries value in science I’d be interested to hear why you hold that view.

*The article notes that in two of the fields (engineering and economics) “women are substantially underrepresented” and in two (biology and psychology) “women are well represented”. Unfortunately I can’t access the cited paper that describes what they mean by “well represented” – some quick googling suggests that women are still under-represented in higher positions in those fields, but feel free to correct that if you have better sources.

Yep, EA Australia currently has no paid employees. But we are hiring for an Accounting and Administration Manager, with that wage funded by private donations from within Australia.That role won't be targeted towards community building, it will primarily be ensuring EA Australia meets its accounting and reporting obligations as a charity.

However, after recent discussions with Australian local EA group organisers, and in line with planned changes to our org structure, EA Australia is considering recruiting a person to serve as a central coordination point for Australian local group organisers. Yes, meta.

I'm interested to know if there is any similar model for this in other regions. That is - are there any situations where one person acts as a central resource point and support for local groups in their country/region and as an interface between their country/region's local groups and the rest of the global EA community?

Ps. If you have any Australian based friends who might be good for EA Australia's Accounting and Administration Manager position please let them know about the role: