Stephen Clare

3005 karmaJoined Aug 2021


I'm an independent researcher working on various projects in cause prioritization and global conflict research.

Previously I've been a Research Fellow at the Forethought Foundation, where I worked on What We Owe The Future with Will MacAskill; an Applied Researcher at Founders Pledge; and a Program Analyst for UNDP.


I can certainly empathize with the longtermist EA community being hard to ignore. It's much flashier and more controversial.

For what it's worth I think it would be possible and totally reasonable for you to filter out longtermist (and animal welfare, and community-building, etc.) EA content and just focus on the randomista stuff you find interesting and inspiring. You could continue following GiveWell,  Founders Pledge's global health and development work, and HLI. Plus, many of Charity Entrepreneurship's charities are randomista-influenced.

For example, I make heavy use of the unsubscribe feature on the Forum to try and keep my attention focused on the issues I care about rather than what's most popular (ironically I'm unsubscribed and supposed to be ignoring the 'Community' feed lol).

I agree with you about SNT/ITN. I like that chapter of your thesis a lot, and also find John's post here convincing.

It does seem to me that randomista EA is alive and largely well—GW is still growing, global health still gets the most funding (I think), many of Charity Entrepreneurship's new charities are randomista-influenced, etc.

There's a lot of things going on under the "EA" umbrella. HLI's work feels very different from what other EAs do, but equally a typical animal welfare org's work will feel very different, and a typical longtermist org's work will feel very different, because other EAs do a lot of different things now.

Just curious - do you not feel like GiveWell, Happier Lives Institute, and some of Founders Pledge's work, for example, count as randomista-flavoured EA?

On (1), I commented above, but most supplemental creatine is vegan as far as I can tell.

I think most supplemental creatine is vegan? From what I can tell it's lab-synthesized from chemicals. Folks should obviously double-check that for themselves and their specific supplements, though.

I think that one's a reach, tbh.

(I also think the one about using guilt to control is a stretch.)

In what sense is it "sort of" true that members need to get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, or marry?

What prompt did you use for that Midjourney image? It's sick.

Great work! In addition to providing a useful path forward for future work in this field, this shows the usefulness of applying EA frameworks to policy problems like nuclear risk management. 

Of the eight explanations you list, I worry most about number 5. You write that "For example, a funder might believe that nuclear war, once begun, is almost certain to escalate to all-out war". I don't think you have to believe that escalation is almost certain, but instead just that the amount of escalation is  unaffectable by philanthropists. This is at least plausible to me given that we know decision-makers struggle to control escalation once a war has started. I also think there are way fewer leverage points once a war has started as decision-making becomes more centralized, politicized, and stakesier.

That said, of course I think this is a useful direction to explore. I'll be interested to see if you find funding opportunities other than research on effects of war and nuclear winter!

Thanks for your post. I appreciate people taking the time to write up thoughts and proposals for new things EA-related funders should look at. However this seems importantly mistaken to me in a few ways. I want to focus on your paragraph about the IPCC.

The United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have both recently acknowledged the risk current economic growth poses for climate change. The U.N. stated in its Sustainable Development Goals Report for 2022, “Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are root causes of the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.” 

First, style note: you really need to provide direct references for these quotes, for reasons that will become clear below.

But even taking the quote as given: I don't think that "unsustainable patterns of consumption and production" necessarily implies that economic growth poses a risk. You can have continuing economic growth while changing patterns of consumption and production. For example, we can make production processes more efficient to produce more with fewer inputs. And in fact that's exactly what we're doing. Not just in high-income countries, but globally.

They have also recently stated that staying below 1.5 degrees is now impossible unless we see “a radical transformation of society.”  Thus implying technology alone will not be enough to achieve our global environmental goals. 

Again, I don't think the implication you draw is supported by the quote. Technology can radically change society. The shift from gas to electric vehicles is a big transformation (perhaps even radical?).

And IPCC reports this year suggested that “degrowth policies should be considered in the fight against climate breakdown." 

I would be surprised to see that quote appear in an IPCC report. And in fact when I googled it, it seems like it comes from this Nature article on which Jason Hickel was a co-author. Hickel is a noteworthy degrowth advocate and, in my opinion, does not engage with these debates in a truth-seeking way (cf. his interactions with Max Roser). That Nature article does not cite which IPCC report supposedly claims degrowth policies should be considered, much less provide a full-text quote or even page number. I would bet that the IPCC never said anything like that, or at least that Hickel et al. are totally misrepresenting their position.

IMO degrowth is a total non-starter. It would have terrible impacts for the global poor, exacerbate social discord, and trap us in the time of perils. No thanks. I recommend people read this Noah Smith article for more.

Edit: Want to add that it's frankly not the case this kind of stuff hasn't been considered. There is at least one post on this Forum discussing similar ideas in detail, with some good discussion in the replies.

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