Potential Research Projects
Under what moral theories is concern for the very long-term future warranted?
Philosophy - MORAL UNCERTAINTY, POPULATION ETHICS
Given concern for the very long-term future, is the prioritisation claim of longtermism correct? Should altruists in general be moved primarily by explicit considerations of long-run impact, or are all such efforts intractable?
PHILosophy - MORAL UNCERTAINTY, POPULATION ETHICS
Does longtermism lead to the conclusion that existential risk reduction should be the highest priority? Does it further lead to the stronger conclusion that reducing extinction risk should be the highest priority? Or might we do better to focus on macroeconomic ‘trajectory changes’ (that is, smaller but very persistent/long-lasting improvements to total value achieved at every time), or other ways of increasing the expected value of the far future conditional on the survival of the human race?
ECONomics - GROWTH, CATASTROPHIC RISK, MACROECONOMIC THEORY
Existential risk mitigation is more important the more valuable we think the continued survival of the human race is. However, might the expected value of the continued existence of the human race be negative, or just unclear? How do our answers to these questions vary if we (i) assume classical utilitarianism; (ii) assume a non-utilitarian axiology; (iii) fully take moral uncertainty into account?
PHILosophy - MORAL UNCERTAINTY, POPULATION ETHICS ECON - FORECASTING, MODEL UNCERTAINTY
Should we be more concerned about avoiding the worst possible outcomes for the future than we are for ensuring the very best outcomes occur (whether because the worst outcomes are worse than the best outcomes are good, because avoidance of the bad outcomes is more neglected, or because bad outcomes should be weighted more than good outcomes when other relevant things are equal)? If so, what activities would be best?
PHILOSOPHY - MORAL UNCERTAINTY, DECISION THEORY ECON - CATASTROPHIC RISK
Do anthropic ‘doomsday arguments’ offer a compelling reason to believe that the future will be short?
PHILOSOPHY - ANTHROPICS
> Existing Academic Literature
- Nick Beckstead, On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future(PhD diss., Rutgers University, 2013).
- Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
- Thomas Hurka, Asymmetries in Value, Noûs 44 (2002): 199-223.
- David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Sufferings of the World, in Essays and Aphorisms. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin, 1970.
- Brandon Carter and William H. McCrea, The Anthropic Principle and Its Implications for Biological Evolution, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 310 (1983): 347-363.
- Nick Bostrom, Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2002.
> Existing Informal Discussion
- Ben Todd, If you want to do good, here’s why future generations should be your focus
- Amanda Askell, Common objections to Pascal’s Wager
- Paul Christiano, Why might the future be good?
- Ben West, An Argument for Why the Future May Be Good
- Carl Shulman, Are pain and pleasure equally energy-efficient?
- Brian Tomasik, Risks of Astronomical Future Suffering
- David Althaus and Lukas Gloor, Reducing Risks of Astronomical Suffering: a Neglected Priority