A Stranger Priority? Topics at the Outer Reaches of Effective Altruism (my dissertation)
(Cross-posted from my website.)
After many years of focusing on other stuff, I recently 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.