Sami Kassirer

17 karmaJoined Nov 2021


Hello! I am a PhD candidate at Northwestern Kellogg, my work focuses on moral psychology, charitable giving, and charitable receiving. I investigate (i) the process of moralization, (ii) the impediments and antecedents to effective, long-term prosociality, and (iii) recipients psychological experiences when receiving aid.


Great post, thanks for sharing! I think you might find Igor Grossmann's work on the psychology of wisdom particularly interesting (, if you haven't already been exposed to it :)

Very exciting! Is this funding specifically targeting the development of new organizations or would this also fund new academic research on this topic (e.g., antecedents and impediments to the shifting of moral values across cultures; the psychological process of moralization (as applied to EA-relevant ideas and values); barriers to longtermism thinking and interventions amongst laypeople, organizational leaders, and policymakers; etc.)? 

Why would we have to choose between EA research being in vs. out of academia--why not both (which is kind of what we do now, right)? 

I like this! However, in a perfect world, rather than there being one university (or one institute at one university) that studies global priories, wouldn't all top research universities across the world  have global priorities schools (like business or policy schools are prevalent at most research universities)? With philosophers and scientists working together in one school on having the most impact on humanity, and coordinating with one another on how to do so—where students can get PhDs in Global Priorities Research (with specialization in one of the sub-fields, like business schools offer), and undergraduates at all universities around the world can major in global priorities, with paths towards academia and industry. Students majoring in GPR all take classes in the topics (e.g., longtermism, global health and development,  animal rights) and can create joint-majors with philosophy or one of the (social) sciences. 

Business schools were only popularized about 100 years ago, and look at how much their proliferation has incentivized study and work in this space. Also, once the top universities create these GPR schools, many other universities not funded by EA would likely follow (esp. if it’s a profitable, self-sustaining business model). This might cost more than 100 million thought...there's probably data out there on how much it cost initially to start b-schools and policy schools.

Love this! We could also use prisons as a place where social scientists could study how to optimize ethical development amongst criminals. These samples are so hard to access, but could produce so much impactful insight on when and why ethical decision-making fails, and how to improve ethical decision-making under conflict. This could also be coupled this with a grant competition that would fund the best ideas on how to rehabilitate inmates and improve their ethical decision-making both while in prison and after being reintegrated back into society.

How can we foster longterm global trust and status as a social movement? In order to foster global backing for some of the movement's non-normative or 'creative' ideas (e.g., build post-apocalyptic bunkers to help re-build society in case of nuclear war) that may actually be highly impactful in the longterm future, we likely need to first prove ourselves as a movement that can actually create large-scale global impact. 

Here's one idea for a megaproject that could help to foster global trust/status by proving our ability to use evidence and reason to make a positive impact on the world:

  • Part 1: Survey representative samples of most (or all) countries and ask them “if you had 100 million dollars and wanted to use this money to make the world a better place, how would you spend it?”, giving open-ended text and a rank order option of some of the things we’re considering
    • Getting cross-cultural responses to this question could produce the most amount of global backing for EA, and it could look *very good* if we made the movement more democratic! But the latter is an empirical question (I.e., perceived trust in a social movement when the movement relies on experts only, the masses only, or a mix of experts and the masses, vs. a no-mention control)
  • Part 2: Create a list of top 10 or so most cared about global issues, and have EA researchers rank each of them in terms of total impact and effectiveness
  • Part 3: run a RCT again on nationally representative samples globally and compare the globally top ranked cause area to the EA most effective cause within the top 10 (if these two aren’t the same) to look at trade offs between indirect movement building impact and direct cause area impact --> after this RCT, choose which cause area will produce the most total impact as the "winner" of the $100 million grant.
  • Part 4: run a large grant competition to find the best approaches to solving whatever cause area is selected globally (note: I’d hypothesize that it’s very important to solve big issue *globally* to facilitate a new norm of collective global action and foster obligation perceptions towards EA from all countries), and aim to R&D for about 5-10 years (rough estimate), and then roll out the most effective intervention(s) based on these findings
  • (Repeat this every X years to maintain longterm support of EA)