Academic Workshop on Global Priorities

We are delighted to announce that, in 2020, we will be running the first EAGxAustralia Workshop on Global Priorities. This two-day interdisciplinary workshop will be held at the Australian National University (date TBA), in conjunction with the EAGxAustralia conference. The aim of this workshop is to bring attention to academic work within the fields of economics and philosophy that falls under the banner of global priorities research: an emerging field which looks at issues which arise in response to the question, ‘What should we do with a given amount of limited resources if our aim is to do the most good?’

Attendance is open to academics from all fields and interested members of the public. 

See below for the list of invited speakers and further details.

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EAGxAustralia has been postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Stay tuned for more information coming soon.

Global priorities research

Agents seeking to use their resources to impartially do the most good – for instance, many in the effective altruism community – must prioritise among many different global problems, and many means of tackling them. This priority-setting requires answers to thorny questions, both normative and descriptive, and both philosophical and applied. It is these questions which the workshop (and global priorities research more broadly) seeks to answer.

Here are some examples of such questions.

From economics: 

• How does the variation of the cost-effectiveness of interventions within social causes compare to the variation of cost-effectiveness among causes?

When faced with the opportunity to purchase small probabilities of astronomical welfare payoffs, can altruistic actors rationally depart from expected utility maximization?

Given the ethical implications of discounting across generations, and the empirical difficulties of estimating time preference in the absence of long-term investments, how should we discount costs and benefits that occur in the distant future?

• How can economic tools most rigorously be used to estimate policy and intervention impacts on animal welfare (as distinct from human preferences regarding animal welfare)? 

How, concretely, should we adapt (endogenous) growth models to weigh the benefits that growth may pose for the long term against the catastrophic risks that may come with technological development? 

How can mainstream cost-benefit analysis methodology most fruitfully be generalized so as to account for policies’ impacts on future populations’ identities and sizes, under various views in population ethics?

How can institutional mechanisms be designed so as to incorporate the interests of future generations?

What forecasting methods, if any, are well-suited to long-term prediction?

What characteristics of individuals and choice-contexts predict ‘pure’ vs. ‘warm glow’ altruistic behaviour?

How can results from the mechanism design literature help altruistic individuals and organisations to coordinate in a more effective manner? 

What is the best feasible voting system from the perspective of impartial welfarism? 

 

From philosophy:

Are we both rationally and morally required to maximise expected moral value, even when doing so involves producing extremely low probabilities of extremely high payoffs?

What form/s of welfare should altruists promote (and what does this imply in practice)?

Should we accept longtermism: the view that the primary determinant of the differences in moral value of the actions we take today is the effect of those actions on the very long-term future? And, in practice, what actions should a longtermist take?

How should we compare benefits to humans and to non-human animals?

How can we measure the welfare of non-human animals (and what do these methods imply in practice)?

Do we have moral reasons to bring future persons into existence, and how do these compare to our reasons to benefit present (or necessary) persons?

How might other duties (e.g., those arising from issues of justice) interfere with duties of beneficence?

How should altruists respond to uncertainty over which moral theories are correct?

To what extent should a government take actions that are better for the world even if they conflict with the interests of their own citizens?

How should we respond to different forms of evidence about how effective different actions are in promoting value?

For further examples, see the research agenda of the Global Priorities Institute at the University of Oxford. 

 

Call for Abstracts

Submissions may be on any topic relevant to global priority-setting, whether featured above or not. They may be from any area of philosophy or economics, as well as other relevant disciplines (however, we expect that the majority of papers will come from philosophy and economics). Also, we strongly encourage submissions from researchers in groups underrepresented in academic philosophy and economics, including women and people of colour.

To present at the workshop, please submit an extended abstract of 600 words or less to [email protected], making clear how the paper is relevant to the question of how to do the most good with limited resources. Papers should be suitable for a 45-minute presentation (including questions). If you would prefer an alternative or shorter format, for instance, for a work-in-progress talk, please let us know when you submit. The deadline for submissions is April 9th. Successful applicants will be notified at most one month after the deadline.

We have some funding available to cover accommodation and (domestic) travel for speakers, as well as for graduate students who attend. This funding will be allocated on the basis of need, and we encourage attendees to use their own institutional funding if available so that we can fund others. If you require funding, please let us know when you submit or otherwise by email at [email protected]

Presenters will also have the opportunity to have their talks professionally filmed. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

I’m unsure whether my research counts as ‘global priorities research’. Should I still submit an abstract?

If in doubt, yes! We’re interested in any research on considerations relevant to the question of how to do the most good. That is a broad topic and we certainly haven’t thought of all of the possible topics. If you make clear in your abstract how your paper is relevant, we’ll be glad to consider it.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at [email protected].

 

What does it mean that the workshop is run in conjunction with EAGxAustralia?

The Workshop on Global Priorities is an academic workshop while EAGxAustralia is a public conference on similar themes but with a more applied focus. In 2020, these will be run at the same time and in the same venue at the ANU. They will share catering services and logistic support.

Attendees of the wider conference who are interested will be welcome to attend sessions of the academic workshop and vice versa. This makes the workshop an excellent venue to reach a large public audience, including representatives of NGOs, policymakers, and philanthropists, who will take practical actions based on your research.

 

How is the Workshop on Global Priorities connected to effective altruism?

The workshop and global priorities research more broadly are largely inspired by the activities of the effective altruism community. That said, we expect that the content of the workshop will be intellectually interesting in its own right. 

We also welcome submissions which reject or criticise beliefs commonly held by the effective altruism community.

 

I haven’t been involved with the effective altruism community before; can I still come?

Of course! The workshop is for people working on topics which will generally be relevant for effective altruism. This includes, but is by no means restricted to, people who have engaged with the effective altruism community before.

 

Other Details

 

Conveners: Timothy Williamson (ANU), Ben Grodeck (Monash)

Faculty Sponsor: Alan Hájek (ANU)

We are grateful to the Australasian Association of Philosophy and the Centre for Effective Altruism for financial support.