Jordan Arel

Researcher @ Independent
397 karmaJoined Seeking workBerkeley, CA, USA



My goal has been to help as many sentient beings as possible as much as possible since I was quite young, and I decided to prioritize X-risk and the long-term future at around age 13. Toward this end, growing up I studied philosophy, psychology, social entrepreneurship, business, economics, the history of information technology, and futurism.

A few years ago I wrote a book “Ways to Save The World” which imagined broad innovative strategies for preventing various existential risks, making no assumptions about what risks were most likely.

Upon discovering Effective Altruism in January 2022 while studying social entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, I did a deep dive into EA and rationality and decided to take a closer look at AI X-risk, and moved to Berkeley to do longtermist community building work.

I am now looking to close down a small business I have been running to research AI safety and other longtermist crucial considerations full time. If any of my work is relevant to open lines of research I am open to offers of employment as a researcher or research assistant.


Artificial Wisdom


Topic contributions

While existential risks are widely acknowledged as an important cause area, some EA’s like William MacAskill have argued that “Trajectory Change” may be highly contingent even if x-risk is solved and so may be just as important for the long-term future. I would like to see this debated as a cause area

I have been thinking about this kind of thing quite a lot and have several ideas I have been working on. Just to clarify, is it acceptable to have multiple entries, or are there any limit on this?

Mmm yeah, I really like this compromise, it leaves room for being human, but indeed, I’m thinking more about career currently. Since I’ve struggled to find a career that is impactful and I am good at, I’m thinking I might actually choose a career that is a relatively stable normal job that I like (Like therapist for enlightened people/people who meditate), and then I can use my free time to work on projects that could be maximally massively impactful.

Yes! This is helpful. I think one of the main places where I get caught up is taking expected value calculations very seriously even though they are wildly speculative; it seems like there is a very small chance that I might make a huge difference on an issue that ends up being absurdly important, and so it is hard to use my intuition on this kind of thing, whereas my intuitions very clearly help me with things that are close by and hence more easier to see I am doing some good but more difficult to make wild speculations that I might be having a hugely positive impact. So I guess part of the issue is to what degree I depend on these wildly speculative EV calculations, I feel like I really want to maximize impact, yet it is always a tenuous balancing act with so much uncertainty.

Anyone else ever feel a strong discordance between emotional response and cognitive worldview when it comes to EA issues?

Like emotionally I’m like “save the animals! All animals deserve love and protection and we should make sure they can all thrive and be happy with autonomy and evolve toward more intelligent species so we can live together in a diverse human animal utopia, yay big tent EA…”

But logically I’m like “AI and/or other exponential technologies are right around the corner and make animal issues completely immaterial. Anything that detracts from progress on that is a distraction and should be completely and deliberately ignored. Optimally we will build an AI or other system that determines maximum utility per unit of matter, possibly including agency as a factor and quite possibly not, so that we can tile the universe with sentient simulations of whatever the answer is.”

OR, a similar discordance between what was just described and the view that we should also co-optimize for agency, diversity of values and experience, fun, decentralization, etc., EVEN IF that means possibly locking in a state of ~99.9999+percent of possible utility unrealized.

Very frustrating, I usually try to push myself toward my rational conclusion of what is best with a wide girth for uncertainty and epistemic humility, but it feels depressing, painful, and self-de-humanizing to do so.

Good question. Like most numbers in this post, it is just a very rough approximation used because it is a round number that I estimate is relatively close (~within an order of magnitude) to the actual number. I would guess that the number is somewhere between $50 and $200.

Thanks Mo! These estimates were very interesting.

As to discount rates, I was a bit confused reading William MacAskill's discount rate post, it wasn't clear to me that he was talking about the moral value of lives in the future, it seemed like it might be having something to do with value of resources. In "What We Owe The Future" which is much more recent, I think MacAskill argues quite strongly that we should have a zero discount rate for the moral patienthood of future people.

In general, I tend to use a zero discount rate, I will add this to the background assumptions section, as I do think it is an important point. In my opinion, future people and their experience do not have any more or less valuable than people live today, though of course other people may differ. I try to address this somewhat in the section titled "Inspiration."

Thank you so much for this reply! I’m glad to know there is already some work on this, makes my job a lot easier. I will definitely look into the articles you mentioned and perhaps just study AI risk / AI safety a lot more in general to get a better understanding of how people think about this. It sounds like what people call “deployment” may be very relevant, so well especially look into this.

Yes, I agree this is somewhat what Bostrom is arguing. As I mentioned in the post, I think there may be solutions which don’t require totalitarianism, i.e. massive universal moral progress. I know this sounds intractable, I might address why I think this maybe mistaken in a future post, but it is a moot point if a vulnerable world induced X-risk scenario is unlikely, hence why I am wondering if there has been any work on this.

Ah yes! I think I see what you mean.

I hope to research topics related to this in the near future, including in-depth research on anthropics, as well as on what likely/desirable end-states of the universe are (including that we may already be in an end-state simulation) and what that implies for our actions.

I think this could be a 3rd reason for acting to create a high amount of well-being for those close to you in proximity, including yourself.

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