Author Archives: Pablo Stafforini

Other reading lists

Update (February 2020): Julia Wise has compiled a similar list here.

Update (July 2021): I have created a separate list with courses on longtermism.

With thanks to Niel Bowerman, Michael Chen, Pepper, Rohin Shah and Bastian Stern.

Courses on longtermism

Years ago I wrote a blog post listing all the university courses on effective altruism I was able find. I have since tried to keep the list updated, as I stumble upon new courses or people draw my attention to them. As a number of courses have recently been offered specifically on longtermism and related topics, I figured that instead of adding them to the original list, I could create a new one with this more restricted focus.

If you think I’m missing anything, as always, please let me know.

(Dr Schneier informs me that, regrettably, the materials for his course on catastrophic risk have not been preserved.)

With thanks to Prof. Shelly Kagan for sharing the syllabus for his course (and adding a helpful introductory note) and to Bastian Stern for discovering many of the courses listed.

My beliefs, updated

Back in 2015, I published a post listing my beliefs on various propositions. This post updates that list to reflect what I currently believe. The new table also has a new column, indicating the resilience of each belief, defined as the likelihood that my credences will change if I thought more about the topic.

Note that, although the credences stated in the 2015 post are outdated, the substantive comments included there still largely reflect my current thinking. Accordingly, you may still want to check out that post if you are curious about why I hold these beliefs to the degree that I do.

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Good Done Right

Good Done Right was a conference on effective altruism held at All Souls College, Oxford on 7-9 July, 2014. It was perhaps the very first conference of its kind, and it featured an impressive roster of speakers. Some of the talks explored topics, such as moral trade, that would later become more widely discussed. One of these presentations was so good that I decided to transcribe it.

Recordings of all the talks were subsequently made available on a website dedicated to the conference. Unfortunately, the website has since gone offline, and the Internet Archive hasn’t indexed it properly. I contacted Andreas Mogensen, the conference organizer, and he supplied me with an image of the original conference poster (displayed below), but noted that he was no longer in possession of any of the audio recordings. Andreas also clarified that the list of speakers in the poster doesn’t quite match the list of people that actually spoke at the event: Thomas Pogge didn’t speak, whereas Elizabeth Ashford and Michelle Hutchinson did.

After a bit of detective work, I managed to locate recordings of most of these presentations. At the time of writing, three of these are on a Soundcloud channel devoted to the conference, and most of the others are preserved by EA Radio. All these talks are listed below, in alphabetical order. I also obtained a number of photos of the event taken by Toby Ord, who kindly gave permission to share them here. I haven’t been able to find recordings of the talks by Larissa MacFarquhar and Derek Parfit (as the 80,000 Hours announcement confirms, both MacFarquhar and Parfit did participate in the event). However, upon noticing this post, Matthew van der Merwe reached out to me and generously shared the pdf Parfit used as the basis for his presentation (which he obtained from Parfit himself). I include a link to this text file as a substitute for the missing audio file. If anyone else not listed in the conference programme spoke at the conference, besides Ashford and Hutchinson, I haven’t been able to find traces of their presentations.

Minimizing jet lag

This post lists what I believe are the most effective strategies to reduce the impact of jet lag. It evolved out of a document I wrote for a friend who sought my advice. A few of these tips are copied from Wiseman (2014); most of the other ones are based on a couple of hours of research using Google and Google Scholar.

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The most important questions and problems

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 over the years 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 focus on specific causes, such as artificial intelligence, or on specific disciplines, such as moral philosophy.)

Update: This post was originally written in 2017. Michael Aird has more recently compiled a very comprehensive list of open research questions, which largely supersedes the present list (though Aird’s directory excludes some entries included here).

Further update: 80,000 hours has now released an impressive list of research questions that could have a big social impact, organised by discipline.

80,000 Hours

A ranking of the top 10 most pressing global problems, rated by scale, neglectedness, and tractability.

80,000 Hours

A more extensive list of problem areas outside those listed above.

AI Impacts

A list of tractable and important AI-relevant projects. See also their list of key questions of interest and their list of possible empirical investigations.

Center for Reducing Suffering

A list of research directions relevant for reducing suffering.

Center on Long-Term Risk

A comprehensive ranking of open research questions, rated by importance.

Future of Life Institute

A survey of research questions for robust and beneficial AI.

Global Priorities Institute

A detailed list of important problems.

Open Philanthropy

A list of technical and philosophical questions that could influence Open Philanthropy’s grantmaking strategy.

Nick Beckstead

A list of valuable research questions, with a focus on the long term. See also Nick’s presentation on ‘Jobs I wish EAs would do‘.

Ajeya Cotra

A list of questions for further investigation on forecasting transformative artificial intelligence.

Wei Dai

A list of problems in AI Alignment that philosophers could potentially contribute to.

Robin Hanson

A list of 40 or so “big” questions. See also his list of important and neglected problems.

Jamie Harris

A list of possible crucial considerations for artificial sentience.

Holden Karnofsky

A list of important, actionable research questions given that the present century could be the most pivotal in history.

Will MacAskill

A list of the most important unresolved problems in moral philosophy.

Luke Muehlhauser

A comprehensive list of potential studies that could, if carried out, illuminate our strategic situation with regard to superintelligence. See also this early post.

Richard Ngo

A list of questions whose answers would be useful for technical AGI safety research, but which will probably require expertise outside AI to answer.

Jess Riedel

A list of topics in physics that should be funded on the margin right now by someone trying to maximize positive impact for society.

Anders Sandberg

A short list of the best problems to work on, intended as a supplement to 80,000 Hours’ ranking. See also Anders’s final answer in this interview, which mentions the research questions that he believes are most relevant to space colonization.