A Stranger Priority? Topics at the Outer Reaches of Effective Altruism
In early 2023, after many years of focusing on other stuff, I completed my doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford. My dissertation (“A Stranger Priority? Topics at the Outer Reaches of Effective Altruism”) was three of my essays — on anthropic reasoning, simulation arguments, and infinite ethics — revised, stapled together, and unified under the theme of the “crazy train” as a possible objection to longtermism.
The full text is here. I’ve also broken the main chapters up into individual PDFs:
- Chapter 1: SIA vs. SSA
- Chapter 2: Simulation arguments
- Chapter 3: Infinite ethics and the utilitarian dream
Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 are pretty similar to the original essays (here and here). Chapter 2, however, has been re-thought and almost entirely re-written — and I think it’s now substantially clearer about the issues at stake.
Since submitting the thesis in fall of 2022, I’ve thought more about various “crazy train” issues, and my current view is that there’s quite a bit more to say in defense of longtermism than the thesis has explored. In particular, I want to highlight a distinction I discuss in the conclusion of the thesis, between what I call “welfare longtermism,” which focuses on our impact on the welfare of future people, and what I call “wisdom longtermism,” which focuses on reaching a wise and empowered future more broadly. The case for the latter seems to me more robust to various “crazy train” considerations than the case for the former.
Examination of various arguments that we should assign significant probability to living in a computer simulation.
Infinities puncture the dream of a simple, bullet-biting utilitarianism. But they’re everyone’s problem.
This is the first essay in a four-part series explaining why I think one prominent approach to anthropic reasoning (the “Self-Indication Assumption” or “SIA”) is better than another (the “Self-Sampling Assumption” or “SSA”). This part lays out the basics of the debate.