All of Charlie Dougherty's Comments + Replies

Does anyone have a list of historical examples of societies seeking to make things better for their descendants?

OK! Can you give an example of "make things better" that might make a culture exceptional here? I think most societies would be upset if you suggested that they didn't care about future generations, even if you think they were not very good at it.

Just a very broad definition of ‘helping’, like warning about droughts via hunger stones ( [])
To WELLBY or not to WELLBY? Measuring non-health, non-pecuniary benefits using subjective wellbeing

What would you do if Open Phil gave you a million dollars? 

Would it mostly be cost effectiveness analyses?  My impression is that CEAs are good if you decide SWB is the right metric and then deciding what is the best SWB intervention.  

I am not sure that I see clearly in your argument for SWB (which is compelling) what the next steps are. What is the problem you are solving exactly and how?

Connected, but separate question: Do you have an idea of how to make DALYS and QALYS and WELLBYS commensurable? Do you have an idea for how to compare these metrics apples for apples?

Which of Will MacAskill’s many recent podcast episodes would you recommend to other engaged EAs?

I most enjoyed Tyler Cowen, but I thought that The Lunar Society was also worth a listen. The podcast also has a transcript on its website incase you prefer reading. 

Peacebuilding and Violent Conflict

Thanks Jonas! I agree, there is a lot more to talk about about how peacebuilding can be more effective. I hope the tractability section discusses that in my suggested areas for investment. 

Regarding Rwanda: Its quite clear that the international community hesitated in Rwanda and could have done much more to stop the genocide. See  Shake Hands With The Devil, written by  Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1994. 

Lots of the discussion here is that the debate surrounds counterfactuals. What cou... (read more)

Peacebuilding and Violent Conflict

Thanks for this, that was a great write up. I see the author hasn't written anything since then, unfortunately.

 How did you come across this?

I corresponded with the author while he wrote it. He's a very interesting, kind, funny, and motivated person.
EA Tours of Service

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the clarification!  I am sorry i misunderstood your position. If I reflect on how I think I misunderstood the idea myself, I think its because I see a full time job as a type of relationship. Typically in a relationship there are not goals to meet or timeframes; I have never told a girlfriend, "I expect to feel Z way in 6 months so lets come back in 4 months and see if we are on track."

Thats a dramatic comparison, but the dynamic is still a little skewed between me and the other person in the relationship in this situation. If I was ... (read more)

EA will likely get more attention soon


Could you clarify your section about connecting projects with journalists? I am not sure I understand entirely what you are looking for. Are there are particular journalists you have connections with already, is there a particular geography or topic you are thinking of, etc.?

 Also, does this meant that CEA wants to coordinate and do  outreach on behalf of all affiliated organizations and groups?


Thanks so much!


Hi Charlie, Yes, we have some connections with journalists already who have worked on EA-related pieces before or expressed interest in EA. The types of projects we expect they might want to cover are those working on problems that non-EAs are also concerned about (like poverty, animal welfare, pandemic risk, and other catastrophic risks.) We expect EA community-building projects to be of less of a focus. We do expect stories about the amount of funding in EA, but we want to shed more light on the concrete work that the funding and community-building are actually for. I don’t expect that CEA will do outreach on behalf of all EA-related organizations and groups, no. For example if EA Norway gets approached by a journalist wanting to write about the group or about EA in Norway, we’d be happy to help you decide whether to take the interview and prepare what you’d want to convey (as described in our guide to responding to journalists). But we don’t have capacity to do proactive outreach on behalf of community-building projects or organizations in EA. If you (or anybody else) want to talk more about what this might mean for a project or organization you’re involved with, I’m happy to respond more specifically! []
EA Tours of Service

Hi Ben,

While I appreciate the sentiment of a tour of service, I would also like to highlight the asymmmetrical power imbalance of a tour of service. As I understand it, the difference between contractual work and your tour of service is the spirit of the work relationship: a mutual understanding between the employed and the employer. 

However, the only person in that relationship that could extend the relationship, or make it permanent, is the employer.  This is to the disadvantage of the employee, and for all practical purposes is no different th... (read more)

Thanks Charlie! If I understand your concern correctly, this is a misunderstanding of the approach. To quote the post

Note that the Tour of Service (both in the original version and CEA’s) is an informal and non-legally binding agreement. The legal structure of employment is unchanged... Like any other unusual hiring practice, people sometimes get confused. A decent fraction of our candidates think that a tour of service means that we are only hiring them for a limited-term engagement, and they worry about their job security. I’ve iterated on various ways

... (read more)
Charlie Dougherty's Shortform

TLDR: It would be a shame if we just cross our fingers and hope everything goes well in Space for the next 100 years. Also maybe we can all play nice and one day have a space elevator or 10.  Its stimulating to imagine the far future when we are orbiting suns throughout the universe, but until then we first have to play nice and figure out how to reliably get off of Earth. 

If the future of humanity is dependent on moving beyond earth, then any longterm plans are dependent on us being able to regularly escape Earth's gravity well with ease and low... (read more)

Announcing What We Owe The Future

Hi Will, 

How do you feel this book fits into the fidelity model of communication advocated by CEA? 


Announcing the actual longtermist incubation program

I see in your guesstimate you used Expected Impact instead of Expected Value, could you please make your spreadsheets public so we can criticize them? I am not attacking you as a person, only your intelligence. Its for the good of the future of humanity.


We have a potential new member, Monica, who is an actual tram conductor. I am tired of philosophers telling me what to do, so we are recruiting experts into the community. She should be able to resolve the trolley problem in under 10,000 words with  only one game theory matrix. 

A Landscape Analysis of Institutional Improvement Opportunities

@IanDavidMoss, thanks for the reply. I would love if you could go a little deeper into what is an institution to you.  How do you characterize it, and why is this nomenclature important? I just would like to go back to my apples to apples comparison question. My first instinct is that comparing Meta to Blackrock to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to the Office of the President of the USA  to the CCP Central Commitee is going to create some false parallels and misunderstandings of degree of importance or possibility for change ( I will just ... (read more)

Hi Charlie, if you haven't already read the post we wrote last year introducing the prioritization framework [] used in this article, I recommend you do so as it goes over many of these theoretical questions in depth. In that post we offered the following characterization of an institution: As you can see, under this definition there is nothing particularly weird about grouping government and non-government organizations together; they are both formally organized groups of people delineated by legal entities. And even if you were to limit your analysis to, say, tech companies, you would still face the same issue of vastly divergent magnitudes and capabilities within that set of organizations and have to figure out a way to derive meaning from that. Basically, I don't disagree at all with the observations you're making, but my takeaway is "yes, and this is all the more reason why a holistic and cross-sector analysis is relevant and valuable," not "well, I guess we shouldn't bother because this is all too hard." This has always been the plan. I've believed and argued for a long time that while institutions have some common features and problems, identifying the most actionable and promising levers for change requires a highly tailored approach. And this type of work seems to me more neglected within EA than more general, intervention-level analysis (e.g., here [] and here [] ). So I think we are on the same page.
A Landscape Analysis of Institutional Improvement Opportunities

It is an interesting analysis, but how do you propose to have any influence over these institutions? For example, how would you  go about,"Ensuring that Alphabet's corporate board of directors is well-educated about AI safety issues"? How would you influence Amazon? What would be the intention of the intervention? How would you influence the office of the President of the USA? The importance of these "institutions" seems self-evident, but what you would actually do to change things, and what exactly you would want to change, seem to be more salient qu... (read more)

I'm replying quickly to this as my questions closely align with the above to save the authors two responses; but admittedly I haven't read this in full yet. Can you explain more about 'capacity for change' and what exactly that entailed in the write-ups? I ask because looking at the final top institutions and reading their descriptions, it feels like the main leverage is driven by 'expected of hypothetical impact on people's lives in both typical and extreme scenarios', and less by 'capacity for change'. It seems to be a given that EAs working in one of these institutions (e.g. DeepMind) or concrete channels to influence (e.g. thinktanks to the CCP Politburo) constitute 'capacity for change' within the organisation, but I would argue that that in fact is driven by a plethora of internal and external factors to the organisation. External might be market forces driving an organisations dominance and threatening its decline (e.g. Amazon), and internal forces like culture and systems (e.g. Facebook / Meta's resistance to employee action). In fact, the latter example really challenges why this organisation would be in the top institutions if 'capacity for change' has been well developed. Equally, when it comes to capacity for change this is both a point in favour and against, as such structure and priorities are by definition not robust / easily changed by the next administration. Basically, it's really hard to get a sense of whether the analysis captured these broader concerns from the write-up above. If it didn't, I would hope this would be a next step in the analysis as it would be hugely useful and also add a huge deal more novel insights both from a research perspective and in terms of taking action. Also curious about how heavy this is weighted towards AI institutions - and I work in the field of AI governance so I'm not a sceptic. Does this potentially tell us anything about the methodology chosen, or experts enlisted? EDIT: additional point around Executive
Mapping of EA

Hi Jordan, 

Thanks for the interest! I am not sure what form this would take, or if I am the right person to be doing it, but if something happens to come up I will keep you in the loop 

Mapping of EA

Thanks Gidon! Would you think this is a useful exercise to try?

I think it does! It's important in my opinion that there would be someone who can maintain the map over time, and that it would be easy to make changes to (e.g. if it's an infographic then it can be made easy if it's made in Canva)
Mapping of EA

Oh Wow, that's a really fun idea. Thanks for sharing! It's like someone was writing an EA  fantasy series. 

The Explanatory Obstacle of EA

Hi Gidon! Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Sorry if I got lost in the difference between a pitch and an explanation in your post. When we talk about one minute or equally short explanations of EA, I tend to think of them as pitches. In the EA world, I tend to think of long form education and discussion such as a fellowship program as an explanation.  I like the distinction, but I would also suggest the line between the two isn't clear cut.  I think this is also indicated when your suggested guidelines are directed to both pitches and explanations.... (read more)

The Explanatory Obstacle of EA

Hi Gidon,

Thanks for this, a really interesting way to think about the problem!

I think one rule of thumb that can help people simplify the framing problem is to know who your audience is. I am not sure that there is a universal framing that can be applied to all situations, and trying to abstract explanations to the points of having a framework of explanations might lead to some over-efficient explanations. 

I think your criticism of the website is right fair, but I believe it has more to do with writing to the wrong audience rather than giving a poor e... (read more)

Thank you Charlie! 

 I don't think that the point of a lot of our introductory pitches should to transfer the most bits of information, but rather to get people on the right track, interested and attracted to the idea. 

I totally agree with this! Let me clarify my opinion:

  • I distinguish between a pitch and an explanation.
  • I think that pitches should maximize attraction, but also need to satisfy some level of explanations for the concept discussed.
  • I think that the common EA pitches are quite good at attracting people, but I believe we’re pretty b
... (read more)