Aug 4, 2023Liked by Richard Y Chappell

As far as I can tell, pretty much the same objections you discuss could be raised against animal causes. Yet I hardly ever see these objections being raised. I don't recall, for instance, David Thorstad pointing to the millions Open Philanthropy spends on corporate animal welfare campaigns as "the price of EAA". I think such an objection would be pretty weak, and that's also why I don't think much of the analogous objections to longtermism.

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Aug 4, 2023·edited Aug 4, 2023

I think some people see the longtermist concerns and short-term concerns of dire poverty/starvation as two separate areas. A lot of EAs would probably be sympathetic to the idea that future people matter a lot but be hesitant about the AI risk stuff.

One interesting way to connect the two would be to project the cost of saving a life in the near future and then look at the expected return of saving money. If the cost of saving a life remains around $5000 for the next 100 years, then investing might be wise. If we expect a drastic fall in the cost of saving lives in the near future, then taking on debt might be prudent. You could also try to take advantage of a very low cost to save a life during disasters like famines or floods. This might be a more appealing way of discussing longterm concerns because it keeps the unit fixed (lives saved) and doesn't rely on counter-intuitive low probability concerns and high levels of speculation.

One might argue that saving lives now is beneficial because it means these people have more children later. But those children might also need financial support. Then you get into the tricky area of population ethics.

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One thing I've been thinking about lately is the causes of the dire poverty in developing nations. If we expect the issue to resolve itself through technological advancement or a natural improvement in institutions, then maybe it's better to focus on immediate relief. If there is a plausible way of helping these developing nations to become wealthy, then maybe that would take priority from a cost-benefit perspective.

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