trammell

Econ PhD student at Oxford and research associate at the Global Priorities Institute. I'm slightly less ignorant about economic theory than about everything else.

https://philiptrammell.com/

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Update on GPI's activities and plans for 2022

Haha okay, thank you! I agree that it’ll be great if clear examples of impact like this inspire more people to do work along these lines. And I appreciate that aiming for clear impact is valuable for researchers in general for making sure our claims of impact aren’t just empty stories.

FWIW though, I also think it could be misleading to base our judgment of the impact of some research too much on particular projects with clear and immediate connections to the research—especially in philosophy, since it’s further “upstream”. As this 80k article argues, most philosophers have basically no impact, but some, like Locke, Marx, and Singer, seem to have had huge impact, most of it very indirect. In some cases (Marx especially I guess) the main impacts have even come from people reading their ideas long after they died.

Anyway, happy to celebrate clear impact (including my own!), just want to emphasize that I don't think impact always has to be clear. :)


 

Update on GPI's activities and plans for 2022

I expect that different people at GPI have somewhat different goals for their own research, and that this varies a fair bit between philosophy and economics. But for my part,

  • my primarily goal is to do research that philanthropists find useful, and
  • my secondary goal is to do research that persuades other academics to see certain important questions in a more "EA" way, and to adjust their own curricula and research accordingly.

On the first point—and apologies if this sounds self-congratulatory or something, but I'm just providing the examples of GPI's impact that I happen to have had a hand in, in case they're helpful!—I'm (naturally) excited that my work on the allocation of philanthropic spending over time motivated Founders Pledge to launch the Patient Philanthropy Fund. I'm also glad that a few larger philanthropists have told me that it has had at least some impact on how they think about the question of how they should distribute their giving over time.

On the second point, I don't really expect to be influencing econ professors much yet since I'm still just a PhD student, but my literature review on economic growth under AI will be used in a Coursera course on the economics of AI. (To illustrate what I have in mind of what's possible, though, the philosophers already seem to have had a fair bit of success influencing curricula: professors at Yale and UMich are now offering whole courses on longtermism, largely drawing on GPI papers.)

I am not focused on attempting to change policy.

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Hah, sorry to hear that! But thanks for sharing--good to have yet more evidence on this front...!

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Right—the primary audience is people who already have a fair bit of background in economics.

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Cool! I was thinking that this course would be a sort of early-stage / first-pass attempt at a curriculum that could eventually generate a textbook (and/or other materials) if it goes well and is repeated a few times, just as so many other textbooks have begun as lecture notes. But if you'd be willing to make something online / easier-to-update sooner, that could be useful. The slides and so on won't be done for quite a while, but I'll send them to you when they are.

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Yup, I'll post the syllabus and slides and so on!

I'll also probably record the lectures, but probably not make them available except to the attendees, so they feel more comfortable asking questions. But if a lecture goes well, I might later use it as a template for a more polished/accessible video that is publicly available. (Some of the topics already have good lectures for online as well, though; in those cases I'd probably just link to those.)

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Glad to hear you might be interested!

Thanks for pointing this out. It's tough, because (a) as GrueEmerald notes below, at least some European schools end later, and (b) it will be easier to provide accommodation in Oxford once the Oxford spring term is over (e.g. I was thinking of just renting space in one of the colleges). Once the application form is up*, I might include a When2Meet-type thing so people can put exactly what weeks they expect to be free through the summer.

*If this goes ahead; but there have been a lot of expressions of interest so far, so it probably will!

2-week summer course in "economic theory and global prioritization": LMK if interested!

Sure. Those particular papers rely on a mathematical trick that only lets you work out how much a society should be willing to pay to avoid proportional losses in consumption. It turns out to be different from what to do in the x-risk case in lots of important ways, and the trick is not generalizable in those ways. But because the papers seem so close to being x-risk-relevant, I know of like half a dozen EA econ students (including me) who have tried extending them at some point before giving up…

I’m aware of at least a few other “common EA econ theorist dead ends” of this sort, and I’ll try making a list, along something written about each of them. When this and the rest of the course material is done, I’ll post it.

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