jtm

Hi there! :)

Professionally, I work on biosecurity grantmaking with Effective Giving. I also spend some of my time working as a researcher on global catastrophic biological risks at the Future of Humanity Institute. (https://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/people/joshua-teperowski-monrad)

Beyond biorisk, I'm especially excited about improving the epistemic norms, inclusivity, and general awesomeness of the EA community.

I previously helped run the Yale Effective Altruism group.

I am not aiming to be anonymous/pseudonymous on here but sparingly write my full name because I prefer my Forum activity not to appear in search engines.

Joshua TM

Topic Contributions

Comments

Four Concerns Regarding Longtermism

I wholeheartedly agree with Holly Morgan here! Thank you for writing this up and for sharing your personal context and perspective in a nuanced way. 

Some unfun lessons I learned as a junior grantmaker

Thanks for writing this, Linch! I’m starting a job in grantmaking and found this interesting and helpful.

Free-spending EA might be a big problem for optics and epistemics

+1. One concrete application: Offer donation options instead of generous stipends as compensation for speaking engagements.

Pre-announcing a contest for critiques and red teaming

Hi EKillian! Could you provide some more context on what you're interested in? Anyone will be welcome to write a submission. If you're more interested in helping others with their work, you could say a bit more about that here in the comments, and then perhaps someone will reach out.

In terms of serving as a judge in the competition, we haven't finalised the process for selecting judges – but it would be helpful if you could DM with some more information.

Paul Farmer (1959 – 2022)

I appreciate hearing that and I've appreciated this brief exchange.

And I'm glad to hear that you're giving the book a try. I expect that you will disagree with some of Farmer's approaches – as I did – but I hope you will enjoy it nonetheless.

Paul Farmer (1959 – 2022)

In general, I think the more 'activist' approach can be especially useful for (1) arguing, normatively, for what kind of world we want to be in and (2)  prompting people to think harder about alternative ways of getting there – this is especially useful if some stakeholders haven't fully appreciated how bad existing options are for certain parties. Note that neither of these ways to contribute requires concrete solutions to create some value.

Also, to add: 

To be clear, I think we both need the more 'activist' approach of rejecting options that don't meet certain standards, as well as the more 'incrementalist' approach of maximising on the margin.

For example, we both need advocates to argue that it's outrageous and unacceptable how the scarcity funds allocated towards global poverty leaves so many without enough, as well as GiveWell-style optimisers to figure out how to do the most with what we currently have. 

In a nutshell: Maximise subject to given constraints, and push to relax those constraints.

Paul Farmer (1959 – 2022)

Thanks for this, I think you articulate your point well, and I understand what you're saying.

It seems that we disagree, here:

It seems to me that the world would be a much better place if, whenever someone refused to accept either horn of a moral or political dilemma, they were expected to provide an explicit answer to the question "What would you do instead?"

My point is exactly that I don't think that a world with a very strong version of this norm is necessarily better. Of course, I agree that it is best if you can propose a feasible alternative and I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask for that. But I don't think that having an alternative solution should always be a requirement for pointing out that both horns of a dilemma are unacceptable in an absolute sense.

Sometimes, the very act of critiquing both 'horns' is what prompts us to find a third way, meaning that such a critique has a longer-term value, even in the absence of a provided short-term solution. Consequently,  I think there's a downside to having too high of a bar for critiquing the default set of options.

To be clear, I think we both need the more 'activist' approach of rejecting options that don't meet certain standards, as well as the more 'incrementalist' approach of maximising on the margin. There's a role for both, and I think that Farmer did a great job at the former, while much of the effective altruism movement has done a great job at the latter. Hence why I found it valuable to learn about his work.

Paul Farmer (1959 – 2022)

Thanks for writing this, Gavin.

Reading (well, listening to) Mountains Beyond Mountains, I was deeply inspired by Farmer. I think a lot of people in the EA community would benefit from giving the book a chance.

Sure, I sometimes found his rejection of an explicit cost-effectiveness-based approach very frustrating, and it seemed (and still seems) that his strategy was at times poorly aligned with the goal of saving as many lives as possible. But it also taught me the importance of sometimes putting your foot in the ground and insisting that none of the options on the table are acceptable; that we have to find an alternative if none of the present solutions meet a certain standard.

In economics and analytic philosophy (and by extension, in EA) we're often given two choices and told to choose one, regardless of how unpalatable both may be. Maximisation subject to given constraints, it goes. Do an expensive airlift from Haiti to Boston to save the child or invest in cost-effective preventive interventions, it goes. And in the short term, the best way to save the most lives may indeed be to accept that that is the choice we have, to buckle down and calculate. But I'd argue that, sometimes, outright rejecting certain unpalatable dilemmas, and instead insisting on finding another, more ambitious way, can be part of an effective activist strategy for improving the world, especially in the longer term.

My impression is that this kind of activist strategy has been behind lots of vital social progress that the cost-effectiveness-oriented, incrementalist approach wouldn't be suited for.

Participate in the Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition

Hi James!

Good question. That estimate was for our entire process of producing the paper, including any relevant research. We wrote on a topic that somewhat overlapped with areas we already knew a bit about, so I can imagine there'd be extra hours if you write on something you're less familiar with.  Also, I generally expect that the time investment might vary a lot between groups, so I wouldn't put too much weight on my rough estimate. Cheers!

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