Cofounder of the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance and EA Geneva.
Our World in Data has created two great posts this year, highlighting how the often proposed dichotomy between economic growth & sustainability is false.
In The economies that are home to the poorest billions of people need to grow if we want global poverty to decline substantially, Max Roser points out that given our current wealth,
the average income in the world is int.-$16 per day
Which is far below what we'd think of as the poverty line in developed countries. This means that mere redistribution of what we have is insufficient - we'd all end up poor and unable to continue developing much further because we're too occupied with mere survival. In How much economic growth is necessary to reduce global poverty substantially?, he writes:
I found that $30 per day is, very approximately, the level below which people are considered poor in high-income countries.
in the section Is it possible to achieve both, a reduction of humanity’s negative impact on the environment and a reduction of global poverty?, he adds:
As you will see in our writing there are several important cases in which an increased consumption of specific products gets into unavoidable conflict with important environmental goals; in such cases we aim to emphasize that we all as individuals, but also entire societies, should strongly consider to reduce the consumption of these products – and thereby reduce the use of specific resources and forgo some economic growth – to achieve these environmental goals. We believe a clear understanding of which specific reductions in production and consumption are necessary to reduce our impact on the environment is a much more forceful approach to reducing environmental harm than an unspecific opposition to economic growth in general.
So for discussions on how to approach individual "consumption" or policymaking around it, we could start a list of specific products to avoid. Would somebody be up for compiling this? It would be a resource I'd link to quite regularly. You can apparently just extract them from the 13 links Max Roser put just above the paragraph cited above. It would make for a great, short and crisp EA Forum post, too.
To avoid spamming more comments, one final share: our resource repository is starting to take shape. Two recent additions that might be of use to others:
In the works: a brief guide to decision-making on wicked problems, an analysis of 28 policymaker interviews on "decision-making under uncertainty and information overload" and a summary of our first working paper.
We have set up an RSS feed for the blog (or just subscribe to the ~quarterly newsletter).
And last but not least, we now have fiscal sponsorship for tax-deductible donations from the US, UK and the Netherlands via EA Funds and a lot of room for more funding.
We have published a few additional blog posts of interest:
Building the field of long-term governance - SI’s research approach
Setting expectations for extreme risk mitigation through policy change
Our Theory of Change
Disclaimer: I am a co-founder.
The Simon Institute for Longterm Governance. We help international civil servants understand individual and group decision-making processes to foster the metacognition and tool-use required for tackling wicked problems like global catastrophic risks and the representation of future generations.
We have a well-researched approach and direct access to senior levels in most international organizations. Given that we just launched, we have no sense of our effectiveness yet but hope to provide a guesstimate by 2023.
You can donate to us here.
Hi! We uploaded drafts for two pieces last week:
It’s all somewhat mixed up - highly targeted advocacy is a great way to build up capacity because you get to identify close allies, can do small-scale testing without too much risk, join more exclusive networks because you’re directly endorsed by “other trusted actor x*, etc.
Our targeted advocacy will remain general for now - as in “the long-term future matters much more than we are currently accounting for” and “global catastrophic threats are grossly neglected”. With increasing experience and clout, it will likely become more concrete.
Until then, we think advocating for specific recommendations at the process level, i.e. offering decision-making support, is a great middle way that preserves option value. We are about something very tangible, have more of a pre-existing knowledge base to work with, do not run into conflicts of interest and can incrementally narrow down the most promising pathways for more longtermist advocacy.
Regarding public advocacy: given that we interact mostly with international civil servants, there aren’t any voting constituencies to mobilize. If we take 'public advocacy' to include outreach to a larger set of actors - NGOs, think tanks, diplomatic missions, staff unions and academics - then yes, we have considered targeted media campaigns. That could be impactful in reframing issues/solutions and redirecting attention once we’re confident about context-appropriate messaging.
Yup, the portfolio approach makes a lot of sense to us. Also, as always, thanks for the summary and links!
A big question is how to define “extremely nearby”. Within the next 5 years, SI should be in a position to directly take meaningful action. Ironically, given SI’s starting point, making short-term action the main goal seems like it could make it less likely to attain the necessary capacity. There’s just no sustainable way in which a new actor can act urgently, as they first have to “stand the test of time” in the eyes of the established ones.
Yeah, public attention can also be a carrot, not just a stick. But it’s a carrot that grows legs and will run its own way, possibly making it harder when you want to change course upon new learnings.
Our current take here is something like “public advocacy doesn’t create windows of opportunity, it creates windows of implementation”. When public pressure mounts, policymakers want to do something to signal they are trying. And they will often do whatever looks best in that moment. It would only be good to pressure once proposals are worked out and just need to be “pushed through”.
To influence agendas, it seems better, at least mid-term, to pursue insider strategies. However, if all you have is one shot, then you might as well try public advocacy for reprioritization and hope it vaguely goes into the right direction. But if you think there’s time for more targeted and incremental progress, then the best option probably is to become a trusted policy actor in your network of choice.
Thanks a lot for the compliments! Really nice to read.
The metrics are fuzzy as we have yet to establish the baselines. We will do that until the end of September 2021 via our first pilots to then have one year of data to collect for impact analysis.
The board has full power over the decision of whether to continue SI’s existence. In Ralph Hertwig’s words, their role is to figure out whether we “are visionary, entirely naïve, or full of cognitive biases”. For now, we are unsure ourselves. What exactly happens next will depend on the details of the conclusion of the board.
I prefer the lower pitch "wob-wob-wob" and thus would like to make a bid to simply rename Robert Wiblin to "the Wob". Maybe Naming What We Can could pick this up?