What are the most important questions to answer? What are the most important problems to solve? Various people and organizations in the effective altruist community have compiled lists of such questions and problems. This post provides links and brief descriptions of all the lists I’m currently aware of. (Note that many of these lists are confined to specific causes or disciplines, such as artificial intelligence or moral philosophy.)
A ranking of the top 10 most pressing global problems, rated by scale, neglectedness, and tractability.
A list of empirical questions of relevance to AI forecasts.
A comprehensive ranking of open research questions, rated by importance.
A survey of research questions for robust and beneficial AI.
A list of technical and philosophical questions that could influence OpenPhil’s grantmaking strategy.
A list of valuable research questions, with a focus on the far-future. See also Nick’s presentation on ‘Jobs I wish EAs would do‘.
A list of important and neglected problems.
A list of the most important unresolved problems in moral philosophy.
A comprehensive list of potential studies that could, if carried out, illuminate our strategic situation with regard to superintelligence.
A short list of the best problems to work on, intended as a supplement to 80,000 Hours’ ranking. See also Anders’ final answer in this interview, which mentions the research questions that he believes are most relevant to space colonization.
On July 9th, 2014, Nick Bostrom gave a talk on ‘Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy’ (audio|slides) at Good Done Right, a conference on effective altruism held at All Souls College, Oxford. I found the talk so valuable that I decided to transcribe it.
I’ve been helping some friends create a syllabus for a course on effective altruism, and as part of this effort I compiled a list of existing reading lists on the topic. Am I missing anything?
Other reading lists
Gregory Lewis is a public health doctor training in the east of England. He studied medicine at Cambridge, where he volunteered for Giving What We Can and 80000 hours. He blogs at The Polemical Medic. This interview was conducted as part of the research I did for Will MacAskill’s book, Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference. Greg’s inspiring story is discussed in chapters 4 and 5 of that book.
These two language decks may be of interest to language learners:
For a description of each deck’s contents, follow the corresponding link. The decks were generated with a script I wrote; I checked a few random cards from each deck and everything looked fine, but if you detect any errors, please let me know.
Carlos Nino was a publicly engaged intellectual of rare integrity and brilliance. In his dedication to human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional legitimacy he combined passion with wisdom and analytic clarity. His inexhaustible courage in fighting to restore decency to his nation provides a model for others working in the wake of dictatorship. We are fortunate to have in his writings a record of his remarkable thought and experience.
I started compiling this bibliography back when I was an undergraduate student at the university of Buenos Aires, and continued to work on it intermittently over the next few years. In 2007, my hard drive was damaged in an accident and most of the data stored in it was lost. I had since then assumed that the document containing the bibliography was among the affected files. A week ago, however, I stumbled upon a copy of it. Thinking that there might be sufficient interest in this information among legal scholars and other academics, I spent a few hours over the following days updating the references and formatting the bibliography for online publication. I would like to thank the staff at various institutions whose libraries I consulted in the course of preparing this document, in particular Universidad de San Andrés, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Sociedad Argentina de Análisis Filosófico, Centro de Investigaciones Filosóficas, University of Oxford (Bodleian Law Library), Balliol College and University of Toronto (Robarts Library).
My friend Brian Tomasik recently made available a table summarizing his beliefs on various issues. I thought recording my own credences on these propositions would be a fun and potentially instructive exercise, and decided to make my answers public. To prevent myself from being influenced by Brian’s responses, I copied the original table onto an Excel spreadsheet, deleted the column with his answers and randomized the rows (by sorting them in alphabetical order). Only after recording all my responses did I allow myself to look at Brian’s, and I managed to resist the temptation to make any changes ex post facto. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the degree to which we agree, and not very surprised at the areas where we don’t agree. I also suspect that a few of our disagreements (e.g. on compatibilism about free will) are merely verbal. Below, I comment on the propositions on which we disagree the most.
If you think you might want to participate in this exercise, you can make a duplicate of this spreadsheet and record your answers there before reading any further.
ETA: See also Michael Dickens’ responses in the comments section.
William Lane Craig is, far and away, my favorite debater, and over the years I’ve watched, listened to, and read dozens of his debates with atheists, agnostics, Muslims and liberal Christians. There are several sites that provide lists of debates with Craig, but none of these lists are exhaustive, and some of them are inaccurate (providing e.g. erroneous dates). So I’ve decided to remedy this situation by creating my own list. As far as I can tell, the list is complete, but if you notice any omissions, please let me know.
Some of my friends may be surprised to learn of my interest in this Christian apologist, and might even suspect that I have become a Christian myself. Let me, then, make it clear that, while I admire Craig’s debating skills, I reject many of his substantive views (some of which I find monstrous). I see no tension in holding these two attitudes: public debates are not conducive to the discovery of truth, and skill at debating should not, therefore, be regarded as indicative of correctness of belief. As Luke Muehlhauser notes, “The reason Craig wins all his debates with atheists is not because his arguments are sound, but because he is a masterful debater.” (I do, however, believe that debates can offer more than mere entertainment, and exposing myself to Craig’s debates has helped me clarify my thinking in various ways.)
The table below currently lists over a hundred debates. My favorites are those with Douglas Jesseph, Arif Ahmed, Shelly Kagan, Quentin Smith, Ray Bradley, and others I’m forgetting.
If we compare McTaggart with the other commentators on Hegel we must admit that he has at least produced an extremely lively and fascinating rabbit from the Hegelian hat, whilst they have produced nothing but consumptive and gibbering chimeras. And we shall admire his resource and dexterity all the more when we reflect that the rabbit was, in all probability, never inside the hat, whilst the chimeras perhaps were.
C. D. Broad
To encourage others to give and to keep myself accountable, I’ve decided to start a log of my charitable donations. This report covers donations made during the period 2013-2016, and will be updated at the end of each new year. I may also start tracking money moved in addition to direct donations, as Peter does, and might provide information about donations made prior to 2013, if I find the relevant records.
Note that the amounts I donate are very modest relative to those donated by some of the effective altruists I most admire, such as Brian, Peter, Jeff, and Michael. At some point in the past, I considered earning to give, but ultimately decided that I could have a much bigger impact through direct work, in particular by multiplying the impact of other, highly impactful EAs. I estimate that my current impact through direct work, counterfactually adjusted, is maybe 100 times my impact through donations (the EA I work for, who moves hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to cost-effective charities and has considerable direct impact through public advocacy and outreach, believes that I make him ~⅓ more impactful and that I’m largely irreplaceable).