SECTIONS

METATOOLS FOR PROGRESS

Many projects are dedicated to identifying the threats to human existence but very few offer paths for what to aim for instead. In light of humanity’s countless challenges, pessimism, negativity, and fatalism about the future are likely traps. Instead of lowering our expectations to fit reality, we need to keep in mind that nothing is stopping us from changing reality to meet our hopes and dreams. Here we want to explore what it means to act from a place of existential hope about the future, rather than a place of existential angst.

Illuminating our Constraints: Philosophy of Science

Who Is Looking Out: The Mind

  • Anomalous Monism - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A mind-body problem concept developed by Donald Davidson in Mental Events that attempts to reconcile the contradiction that mental events cannot be predicted by strict laws but seem to causally interact with predictable physical events.
  • What it’s Like to Be A Bat - Thomas Nagel. A contest classic that asserts that “an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism", doubting whether those phenomenological features of a subjective experience can be known by others.

Unraveling Moral Beginnings: Evolutionary Psychology

Which Way is Forward: Value Differences, Drift, & Convergence

  • On What Matters - Derek Parfit. The successor to Reasons and Persons provides an overview of classic moral theories, such as deontology, consequentialism, contractualism, and of major moral issues, such as free will and responsibility.
  • Meta Ethics Sequence - Eliezer Yudkowsky. Especially The Moral Void, Whither Moral Progress, Existential Angst Factory, Morality as Fixed Computation, Value is Fragile, Could Anything Be Right, and Changing Your Meta Ethics.
  • Report on Consciousness and Moral Personhood - Luke Muehlhauser. For figuring out which consciousnesses to include in your ethics and how.
  • Crucial Considerations - Nick Bostrom. By thinking a little harder we may often come to opposite conclusions about the desirability of our actions, so it’s worth thinking hard about which crucial considerations should be guiding our actions.
  • Facing the Unknown, Infinite Ethics - Nick Bostrom. Our epistemic limitations about the (long-term) consequences of our actions are problematic for making the right decision. In Problems And Solutions In Infinite Ethics, Ben West lays out a few strategies that may help us counter some of those epistemic limitations.
  • Normative Uncertainty - Will MacAskill. Argues that we should treat moral uncertainty and empirical uncertainty analogously, and use expected utility theory as framework to decide between our differing moral convictions. 
  • The Moral Parliament - Nick Bostrom, Toby Ord. Suggests to approach moral uncertainty across mutually exclusive moral theories by assigning each of them some probability and letting the theories send a respective number of delegates to a moral parliament.
  • Moral Trade - Toby Ord. Argues that we can trade our values similar to how we exchange goods: Just like people with different tastes or needs can exchange goods or services such that they each feel they have been made better off, people with different moral views may be able to exchange those when trying to improve the world.
  • Reflective Equilibrium - John Rawls. Another method for handling normative uncertainty. It suggests continuously working back and forth among our moral intuitions about actions, the principles that govern them, and the theoretical considerations behind them, revising them when necessary to achieve coherence among them. The Wide Reflective Equilibrium by Norman Daniels adds that we should actively seek out objections that may refute our convictions.
  • In The Balance - Scott Alexander. A tongue in cheek story on handling infinite regress in moral updating: “And you will tell them the story of how once you found the Artifact that gave you mastery of the universe, and you refused to take more than about three minutes figuring out what to use it for, because that would have been annoying.”

Sharpening our Best Tool: Rationality

Confronting Stagnation: What’s Going Wrong?

Building Resilience: Strengthening Civilization

  • Antifragile - Nassim Taleb. An appeal to design our systems such that they get stronger under pressure and can resist low probability scenarios of devastating consequences as described in The Black Swan. One way to do that: Include incentive structures that make people have more Skin in the Game, another book by Taleb.
  • Seeing Like A State - James Scott. On the problems of top-down nation state planning and what we can learn from that for building future cooperative architectures.
  • Rules for a Flat World - Gillian Hadfield. Because current legal rules are too slow, costly, and localized for increasingly complex advanced economies, we need a new set of rules that enhance complex societies and economic interdependence. Dated but with a similar complaint about our legal system: Simple Rules for a Complex World by Richard Epstein.
  • Legal Systems Very Different From Ours - David Friedman. Reviews exotic past and present legal systems that encourage experimentation with legal structures. Also good by Friedman: The Machinery of Freedom, Law's Order.
  • Nudge - Cass Sunstein, Richard Thaler. On how decision-makers can leverage architectures that help people make better decisions.
  • Solving the Generator Function for Existential Risks - Daniel Schmachtenberger. Here as a blog post.
  • Creating A Manual For Civilization - LongNow. On collecting resources to rebuild civilization in case of collapse.
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century- Yuval Harari. On large-scale trends that will shape this century and how to avoid risks arising from them. 
  • The Listening Society - Hanzi Freinacht. Analyzes psychological and cultural pathologies of society, and what a society would look like that enabled people to break out of them.
  • Re.Silience - Blog. On resilience and systems-thinking.
  • ALLFED - The Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED) is a non-profit with a mission to help build resilience to global food shocks (to feed everyone no matter what!).
  • John Garrick Institute for the Risk Sciences - “The advancement and application of the risk sciences to save lives, protect the environment and improve system performance.”
  • Centre for Long-Term Resilience - Think tank with a mission to transform global resilience to extreme risks.

Getting Unstuck: Advancing Progress

  • Radical Markets  Eric Posner, Glen Weyl. Explore strategies for rethinking the underlying dynamics of markets and tools for redesigning them.
  • Futarchy - Robin Hanson. A manifesto for a system in which representatives define and manage a measurement of national welfare, while market speculators would say which policies they expect to raise national welfare.
  • Power Tools for Progress - Thomas Kalil. Identifies meta tools for progress with multiplier effects. Related, Kalil’s What ifs are ambitious but achievable goals for the US, and the Innovation Toolkit by The Obama Administration identified a number of different innovation approaches.
  • Differential Technology Development - Jack. On slowing down technologies that increase existential risk, while advancing those that reduce it.
  • Marginal Revolution - Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok. Blog on economics, progress, and future-relevant macro trends.
  • Conversations with Tyler - Podcast. Conversations include Audrey Tang on Democracy as Technology, Jason Furman on Productivity, Competition, and Growth, Paul Romer on a Culture of Science and Working Hard, Philip Tetlock on Forecasting, Mark Zuckerberg, Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen on the Nature of Progress, Neal Stephensons on Depictions of Reality.
  • EconTalk - Podcast. Conversations include Rob Wiblin and Russ Roberts discuss Charity, Science and Utilitarianism, Steven Levitt on Freakonomics, Nassim Taleb on Rationality, Risk, and Skin in the Game, Gillian Hadfield on Law and the Rules for a Flat World, Marc Andreessen on Software, Immortality and Bitcoin.
  • Translation Podcast - 50 Years podcast on translation science.
  • HackerNews - YCombinator technology-focused news forum.
  • ProgressForum - A place for long-form discussion of progress studies and the philosophy of progress. Founded by Jason Crawford, who founded Roots of Progress - a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a new philosophy of progress for the 21st century.
  • New Science - A 501c3 research nonprofit with the mission to facilitate scientific breakthroughs by empowering the next generation of scientists and building the 21st century institutions of basic science. Founded by Alexey Guzey who blogs on metascience, biology, philanthropy with Twitter digest.
  • Astera Institute - We empower visionary, high-leverage science and technology projects with the capacity to create transformative progress for human civilization.
  • UltraRare - A podcast at the intersection of science and web3.
  • PARPA - We’re riffing on the DARPA model to design, fund, and coordinate ambitious research programs that shift the impossible to the inevitable.

Prototyping New Architectures: 

Choosing Altruism: EA

Leaning into the Long-term

  • FutureFundingList - Lists various philanthropic and venture funding sources for future-focused projects. 
  • Future of Humanity Institute - A multidisciplinary research institute working on Existential Risk at the University of Oxford.
  • Future of Life Institute - FLI is an independent non-profit working to reduce large-scale, extreme risks from transformative technologies, as well as steer the development and use of these technologies to benefit life. Future of Life Institute Podcast - FLI podcast with prominent individuals working on beneficial long-term futures. 
  • Forethought Foundation - Aims to promote academic work that addresses the question of how to use our scarce resources to improve the world by as much as possible.
  • LongView Philanthropy - Designs and executes bespoke giving strategies for major donors. Our grant recommendations are driven by the conviction that we can use evidence and reason to find the highest-impact opportunities in the world. 
  • Foresight Institute - Supports the beneficial development of high-impact technologies to make great futures more likely. 
  • GCR Organization Directory - Lists organizations focused on catastrophic and existential risks.
  • Center for the Study of Existential Risk - An interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilisational collapse.
  • Global Catastrophic Risk Institute - A think tank leading research, education, and professional networking on global catastrophic risk.
  • Global Priorities Institute - Our Vision: A world in which global priorities are set by using evidence and reason to determine what will do the most good. Our Mission: To conduct and promote foundational academic research on how most effectively to do good.
  • Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative - Our mission is to improve human civilization’s long-term prospects for survival and flourishing. Currently, our main strategy is to take on ethical and legal responsibility, as a collaborator, for projects deemed to be important for reducing existential risk.
  • Global Challenges Foundation - Aims to promote the development of global decision-making models capable of more effectively and equitably mitigating and, preferably, eliminating the major global catastrophic risks threatening humanity.
  • Simon Institute - Aims to advance the long-term institutional fit of governments and multilateral organizations.
  • Innogen Institute - The Innogen Institute produces high quality research and supports the delivery of innovation that is profitable, safe and societally useful.
  • Rethink Priorities - A research organization that conducts critical research to inform policymakers and major foundations about how to best help people and nonhuman animals in both the present and the long-term future.