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Affecting the far future with the animal cause

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Any conclusion that "Pursuing cause A also just so happens to be the thing that best optimises for cause B" should give us pause: The probability of our reasoning being biased is very high.

Indeed, it's likely that the optimal thing to do to affect the far future generally lies in the space of suffering-focused AI safety research and/or outreach for this cause directly (cf. the research done by the Foundational Research Institute (FRI): www.foundational-research.org). However, if you have a comparative advantage in broader movement building, a decent case can be made that focusing on animal (meta-)activism might be optimal: Spreading concern for the suffering of voiceless non-human minds (including artificial ones) plausibly affects our civilisation's long-run trajectory to an extent. Moreover, building a sufficiently cause-neutral animal movement has sizeable spill-over effects into direct far future causes. The majority of current FRI researchers have animal rights backgrounds and considered the animal cause the main contender for top priority before looking into far-future strategy and AI safety.

While it does seem quite crazy to believe that more down-to-earth EA and particularly animal movement building miraculously optimises for far-future impact too, the view that we can update a sufficient number of people to weird far-future causes directly seems just as crazy. Many thoughtful people who tend to prioritise far-future concerns these days were very averse to far-future issues when the first heard about them.

Last but not least, moral pluralism, cooperation and compromise might recommend animal movement building (cause-neutralish and with an eye on far-future concerns: www.sentience-politics.org/philosophy): It's awesome for reducing suffering short-term and comes with great spill-over into far-future causes. Being more cause-neutral and far-future concerned is the main thing that sets Sentience Politics apart from other animal EA orgs – and it's an extremely crucial thing in my view.

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Affecting the far future with the animal cause

  1. 1. Affecting the far future with the animal cause
 
 Adriano Mannino, co-founder
 adriano@sentience-politics.org 
 

  2. 2. Projects by the Effective Altruism Foundation (EAF): • Sentience Politics • Foundational Research Institute (FRI) • Raising for Effective Giving (REG) sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 2
  3. 3. Sentience Politics: sentience-politics.org • Antispeciesist think-and-do tank • Animal meta-activism: Research and movement building • “Politics for all sentient beings” sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 3
  4. 4. Foundational Research Institute: foundational-research.org • Prioritization research from a suffering-focused perspective • AI risk as the most plausible current candidate for priority • Preventing the worst failure modes: Difference in disvalue between failure modes vast? • Paperclip maximizers involve huge amounts of suffering • Paperclip protectors much worse? 
 
 “Suffering-focused AI safety”: 
 https://foundational-research.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Suffering-focused-AI-safety.pdf sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 4
  5. 5. Affecting the long-run future with the animal cause • 1) Animal-related values spreading • 2) Sufficiently cause-neutral animal movement building sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 5
  6. 6. Optimally affecting the long-run future • If you have a comparative advantage in strategic or technical research: AI safety research • If you have a comparative advantage in “technical outreach” and recruitment: AI safety outreach and recruitment • If you have a huge comparative advantage in broader movement building: Animal-related values spreading and outreach sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 6
  7. 7. Affecting the long-run future with the animal cause • 1) Animal-related values spreading • 2) Sufficiently cause-neutral animal movement building sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 7
  8. 8. Animal-related values spreading: Premises • Speculative reasoning, not requiring RCTs • Caring about animals / animal-like minds to a sufficient degree, maybe > 1/1000 the degree we care about humans • Society is not guaranteed to reach the values we want in time, e.g. • because AGI may not be a very long way off, and • because “meta-normativity” / value extrapolation is not at all guaranteed to be implemented and may be highly input-sensitive if implemented sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 8
  9. 9. Animal-related values spreading: Premises • Moral stagnation or even recidivism (Nazi Germany, Trump, Brexit, …) is a serious risk • The future of concern for animal-like minds is still very uncertain, even assuming good tech (uncertain progress on antispeciesism, natural suffering, antisubstratism / digital sentience – factory farming analogous scenarios?, …) • Shifting moral values could make a large difference (no factory farming with somewhat better values?) sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 9
  10. 10. Animal-related values spreading: Premises • Animal-related memes convey important and neglected (?) considerations for thinking about the long-run future: • The seriousness and horror of suffering • Overcoming anthropocentrism • Dystopian situation without active malevolence • Morality may not be able to keep up with tech speed • Humanity’s actions are not guaranteed to be greatly net positive – extinction risk vs. quality risk • Empirically, shifting moral values is sufficiently possible sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 10
  11. 11. Affecting the long-run future with the animal cause • 1) Animal-related values spreading • 2) Sufficiently cause-neutral animal movement building sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 11
  12. 12. Animal-related movement building: Premises • Sufficient spill-over of money, researchers and activists into the direct far-future causes that ultimately matter the most: • (Suffering-focused) AI safety • Cause X ? • Sufficient cause-neutrality: Being open to updating towards wild animal suffering, digital suffering and general long-run risks from AGI priorities sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 12
  13. 13. Animal-related movement building: Premises • Finding sufficiently many people with good predictors: People attracted to the animal cause for rational reasons tend to be • comparatively unbiased • willing to update beyond anthropocentrism, towards “weird” and unattractive causes • be motivated by “moral seriousness” and concern for suffering • Most FRI researchers have animal backgrounds and considered the animal cause to be the global priority at some point sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 13
  14. 14. Affecting the long-run future with the animal cause • 1) Animal-related values spreading • 2) Sufficiently cause-neutral animal movement building
 
 Biased? The algorithm generating the animal cause was short-term optimization! • Alternative: No down-to-earth outreach – crazy, given the “craziness” of the far future conclusions / the inferential gap • Decent peer agreement among far future movement builders • Also: Nice compromise strategy between short- and long-run concerns (value uncertainty or pluralism) sentience-politics.org | foundational-research.org 14
  15. 15. Affecting the far future with the animal cause
 
 Adriano Mannino, co-founder
 adriano@sentience-politics.org 
 


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