All of Jack Cunningham's Comments + Replies

[link post] The Case for Longtermism in The New York Times

Great read!  Am I the only one who heard Will's Scottish brogue in my ear as I was reading?

Apply to the Open Philanthropy Technology Policy Fellowship!

I'm pleased to hear that you're running this fellowship again and extremely excited about applying!

A question about the application process: For the think tank tracks, you require a writing sample. "Applicant should be the sole or main author, ≤5 pages, can be an excerpt. Required for think tank track, optional for congressional and federal track.  Please do not create new material." Can you give more feedback on what you're looking for, especially as far as content and style go? Would a well-researched EA Forum post qualify, or more of an academic paper? Should it relate to tech policy explicitly?

3Locke_USA1mo
In case helpful, this is from the FAQ document (linked on the OP page):
What is your theory of victory?

Thanks for the clarification! I've edited the post to reflect your feedback.

What I learnt from twenty 1:1s at EAGxOxford

"I think this high success rate [at receiving meeting requests] was due to a few key things:"

It might not be due to such key things at all! I was at EAGx Boston this weekend and I also had quite a high success rate at scheduling 1:1 meetings. And I don't have much in common with your experience - most of my messages were no more than a couple days out from the conference, I mostly asked people for how they could help me, and I have no full-time EA projects at the moment.

Plausibly, it might just be the case that EAs who attend such conferences are inclined ... (read more)

3Ben Williamson4mo
Nice! Great to have additional perspective on something like this. I think your reasons make a lot of sense, which is all very encouraging in terms of people successfully organising lots of 1:1s.
Air pollution is really bad--Let’s invest in better understanding its impact and saving lives.

Thanks Akhil!

There are a couple good reasons to think that more fine grained monitoring could be effective. For one thing, PM2.5 conditions are often much more localized than we realize, so some neighborhoods and microregions are exposed to much higher conditions than others. And they are time-dependent, meaning that some days and times that are much worse than others. So this more fine grained data can improve our understanding of the hardest hit regions at the neighborhood level, while giving local residents better information as well - imagine if everyo... (read more)

Bounty for your best 2 minute answer to an EA 'frequently asked question'

Note: I wrote a post recently that tries, in part, to answer this question. The post isn't a 2 minute answer, more like a 15 minute answer, so I've adapted some of it below to try and offer a more targeted answer to this question.

Let’s agree that the 8 billion people alive right now have moral worth - their lives mean something, and their suffering is bad. They constitute, for the time being, our moral circle. Now, fast forward thirty years. Billions of new people have been born. They didn’t exist before, but now they do.

Should we include them in our moral... (read more)

1james6mo
Thanks for your submission!
Update on GPI's activities and plans for 2022

I love that you are celebrating your successes here! Your parenthetical apologizing for potentially sounding self-congratulatory made me think, "Huh, I'd actually quite like to see more celebration of when theory turns to action." The fact that your work influenced FP to start the Patient Philanthropy Fund is a clear connection demonstrating the potential impact of this kind of research; if you were to shout that from the rooftops, I wouldn't begrudge you! If anything, clarity about real-world impacts of transformational research into the long-term future likely inspire others to pursue the field (citation needed).

1trammell7mo
Haha okay, thank you! I agree that it’ll be great if clear examples of impact like this inspire more people to do work along these lines. And I appreciate that aiming for clear impact is valuable for researchers in general for making sure our claims of impact aren’t just empty stories. FWIW though, I also think it could be misleading to base our judgment of the impact of some research too much on particular projects with clear and immediate connections to the research—especially in philosophy, since it’s further “upstream”. As this 80k article [https://80000hours.org/career-reviews/philosophy-academia/] argues, most philosophers have basically no impact, but some, like Locke, Marx, and Singer, seem to have had huge impact, most of it very indirect. In some cases (Marx especially I guess) the main impacts have even come from people reading their ideas long after they died. Anyway, happy to celebrate clear impact (including my own!), just want to emphasize that I don't think impact always has to be clear. :)
Update on GPI's activities and plans for 2022

I'm quite sympathetic to your mission of developing a robust understanding of the parameters of cause prioritization. I do have a maybe-dumb question: what is your Theory of Change? You write,

"In GPI’s first few years, we have made a good start on producing high-quality and mission-aligned research papers. In 2022 we are planning to continue the momentum and have set ourselves ambitious targets on the number of papers we want to get through different stages of the publishing pipeline, as well as that we want to post as working papers on our website."

What d... (read more)

4Global Priorities Institute7mo
Even though this is a bit outdated now, the first 10 minutes of this talk at EAG 2018 [https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/our-goals-and-research-2018/] give a good overview of GPI's high-level theory of change.

I expect that different people at GPI have somewhat different goals for their own research, and that this varies a fair bit between philosophy and economics. But for my part,

  • my primarily goal is to do research that philanthropists find useful, and
  • my secondary goal is to do research that persuades other academics to see certain important questions in a more "EA" way, and to adjust their own curricula and research accordingly.

On the first point—and apologies if this sounds self-congratulatory or something, but I'm just providing the examples of GPI's impact ... (read more)

Flimsy Pet Theories, Enormous Initiatives

Open questions:

What's the incentive structure here? If I'm following the money, it seems likely that there's a much higher likely return if you hype up your plausibly-really-important product, and if you believe in the hype yourself. I don't see why Musk or Zuckerberg should ask themselves the hard questions about their mission given that there's not, as far as I can see, any incentive for them to do so. (Which seems bad!)

What can be done? Presumably we could fund two FTE in-house at any given EA research organization to red-team any given massive corporat... (read more)

3Ozzie Gooen8mo
Yep, I think that's the case right now. But the reason for this is that people actually buy these arguments for some reason. To the extent that we can convince people not to do that, I would assume the problem would be lessened. First, we can make sure that EAs treat this stuff skeptically (a low bar, but still a bar). I'm not sure about second steps, but there are a lot of options. 80,000 Hours has done a really useful job (from what I can tell) improving the state of career decisions (for certain clusters of professionals). I could easily imagine corporate versions or similar, for example.
Short List of Cause Areas?

[epistemic status: strong opinion]

I see Policy Design and Implementation as a neglected cause area for Effective Altruism.

Effective policy changes in developed countries could unleash many trillions of dollars in economic potential. This is especially true in the cases of immigration reform and land use policy. While political concerns are often cited as obstacles to progress on these issues, it's still the case that there's not enough investment in time or money to finding creative solutions to these obstacles, especially considering the size of the trill... (read more)

1AndreFerretti8mo
Thank you so much for the well-thought answer! Charter cities excite me as well: Shenzen [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shenzhen] in 1980 had 50,000 inhabitants when it became a special economic zone [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_economic_zones_of_China]. Today, Shenzen is a global tech powerhouse with 20 million citizens. As for land use policy, I feel the cost of the problem myself by living in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world. A denser Paris would lower my rent and spare me a 1-hour bus ride every time I go out for a drink ;)
We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

What should one do now if one wants to be hired by Rethink Priorities in the next couple years? Especially in entry-level or more junior roles.

I realize this is a general question; you can answer in general terms, or specify per role.

2MichaelA9mo
James Ozden's question above [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/D499oMCiFiqHT92TT/?commentId=S4s9mxydBo8BCRhi9] might be sufficiently similar to yours that the answers there address your question?