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Suffering-Focused Ethics (SFE) FAQ

Intrigued by which part of my comment it is that seems to be dividing reactions. Feel free to PM me with a low effort explanation. If you want to make it anonymous, drop it here.

Suffering-Focused Ethics (SFE) FAQ

Strong upvote. Most people who identify with SFE I have encountered seem to subscribe to the practical interpretation. The core writings I have read (e.g. much of Gloor & Mannino's or Vinding's stuff) tend to make normative claims but mostly support them using interpretations of reality that do not at all match mine.  I would be very happy if we found a way to avoid confusing personal best guesses with metaphysical truth. 

Also, as a result of this deconfusion, I would expect there to  be very few to no decision-relevant cases of divergence between "practically SFE" people and others, if all of them subscribe to some form of longtermism or suspect that there's other life in the universe.

Feedback on Meta Policy Research Questions to Help Improve the X/GCR Field’s Policy Engagement

Thanks for starting this discussion! I have essentially the same comment as David,  just a different body of literature: policy process studies. 

We reviewed the field in the context of our Computational Policy Process Studies paper (section 1.1). From that, I recommend Paul Cairney's work, e.g. Understanding public policy (2019), and Weible & Sabatier’s Theories of the Policy Process (2018).

Section 4 of the Computational Process Studies paper contains research directions we think are promising and can be investigated with other methods, too. The paper was accepted by Complexity and is currently undergoing revisions - the reviewers liked our summary and thrust, just the maths is too basic for the audience, so we’re expanding the model. Section 1 of our Long-term Institutional Fit working paper (update in the works, too) also ends with concrete questions we’d like answered.

If you had a large amount of money (at least $1M) to spend on philanthropy, how would you spend it?

Dear Khorton, I just wanted to say thank you for this vote of confidence - it is very motivating to see civil servants who think we're on to something.

konrad's Shortform

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.

Introducing the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance (SI)

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.

Effective charities for improving institutional decision making and improving global coordination

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.

Introducing the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance (SI)

Hi! We uploaded drafts for two pieces last week: 

Introducing the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance (SI)

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.

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