Influence: An Academic Department

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Influence: An Academic Department

Postby WeAreNow » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:18 pm

As an undergrad, I have had a lot of difficulty narrowing down an academic interest. I have considered economics, philosophy, biology, etc. but found none of these really fit my intellectual fire, desire. This, I am beginning to think more and more, is because "effective altruistic studies" (the name needs work, obviously :| ) is not seen as a possible field of study to the general population.

It seems to me that creating a department, or center, or major, or concentration, or classes, on "effective altruistic studies" could be a highly effective way to 1) Get the general population thinking more about how important this topic is. 2) Attract bright, talented people to this school of thought who would have otherwise chosen some less-effective field of study :D

I don't think this falls under any current academic department, even applied ethics in philosophy. For example, I am actually creating my own major (my university is baller like this 8-) ).

What are your thoughts on this idea? Would formalizing "effective altruistic studies" be a worthy use of our time?
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby RyanCarey » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:34 pm

Yes!
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Ruairi » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:04 am

WeAreNow wrote:2) Attract bright, talented people to this school of thought who would have otherwise chosen some less-effective field of study :D


This would be awesome, if there was a course that people who wanted to be altruistic did, which actually led to really high impact careers!

I dunno if it would by the most effective use of time, why dont you do a rough calculation on how good it might be?

I'd been thinking about FHI and wondering if it would be possible for us to have a "Institute for Wild Intervention Studies" or something, as this might attract attention and money to do research??? (are FHI given money to do research?)
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Brian Tomasik » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:51 pm

Thanks for the thread, WeAreNow.

I made some comments on a utilitarian major here. Two things to consider:
  • Might you want to make a lot of money after graduation? If so, your major should probably be mostly focused on that. (Still, even if this is the case, you could still design a utilitarian major for other students.)
  • What sub-topics would it focus on? Effective altruism could take 15 majors' worth of material, and the course of study would be pretty different between Third-world health interventions vs. whether insects can suffer, for example. Of course, the core material is fairly common across everything, especially economics, psychology, and statistics.
Ruairi wrote:I'd been thinking about FHI and wondering if it would be possible for us to have a "Institute for Wild Intervention Studies" or something, as this might attract attention and money to do research??? (are FHI given money to do research?)

I would love to have such an institute. :)

As far as FHI, it was founded as part of the James Martin 21st Century School with an initial $100 million grant from James Martin. So these things don't come free, but you can get a lot done with a big donor on your side.

That said, there are lots of general grants that could potentially be directed toward wild-animal studies, especially philosophy grants. For example, a friend of mine observed that the Templeton Foundation funds some pretty out-there projects and has a lot of money. I'm doubtful that wild animals would be their cup of tea, but Templeton Foundation is an illustration of the point that there might be organizations out there whose grants we could apply for.

(FYI, I also quite enjoy reading the work of the Foundational Questions Institute, although work on cosmology instead of wild animals, and they fund science-oriented research rather than ethics.)
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby RyanCarey » Tue May 01, 2012 12:09 pm

Writing units for an effective altruism course sounds fun. Say it's a 3 year course with 12 core units:

Core subjects:
Philosophy
Utilitarianism
Rationality

Maths
Probability: utility calculation
Statistics: effectiveness research

Commerce
Charity evaluation and measurement of performance
Startups and entrepreneurship

Science / Tech
Artificial Intelligence
Existential Risk
Agricultural science: Animal farming / Dietary Choice and In Vitro meat
Environmental Science: Evolution and Wild animal suffering
Articifial Intelligence
Existential Risk

Major: Effective Giving
Economic Theory
Economics: poverty and aid
Marketing: promoting effective giving and effective doing
Management: Non-governmental organisation, charity evaluators and giving organisations
[and 8 other subjects]

Major: Finance

Major: Science / Technology
Human enhancement
Senescence
[and 10 others]

I’ve intentionally put the subjects in pairs, which could be for the first and second semesters in a year! Writing that was a lot of fun. I would be so proud if oneday effective altruists got to the point where we had an audience for whom we would seriously write a curriculum! Even if it was just an online course or book!
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Arepo » Wed May 02, 2012 11:32 am

GWWC and 80K are developing an umbrella organisation - the Centre for Effective Altruism - which I think might be an official part of Oxford Uni (though it won't be a teaching department, or at least not for a while).
"These were my only good shoes."
"You ought to have put on an old pair, if you wished to go a-diving," said Professor Graham, who had not studied moral philosophy in vain.
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby RyanCarey » Wed May 02, 2012 10:11 pm

GWWC and 80k hours are generally pretty receptive to donor-suggested ideas, and they are obviously the appropriate people to talk about re such an initiative. It would seem to me that an academic effective altruism department would start like this:
1. Free online curriculum (a series of documents available in doc, pdf)
2. Full time employee(s) dedicated to refining the curriculum / coordinating it
3. Refine the curriculum sufficiently that it could be a unit in an Arts degree
4. Submit the unit

We can easily start on the first part...
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Pat » Thu May 03, 2012 12:19 am

Kahneman's planning anecdote might be relevant.
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Arepo » Thu May 03, 2012 6:20 pm

To some degree 1) is the Felicific Wiki, no?

Which reminds me - would it be worth considering renaming/relocating it as the Effective Altruism wiki and making it (at least publicly) a part of CEA (or rather, if they were interested in receiving it, would we be willing to give it)?
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Arepo » Thu May 03, 2012 6:22 pm

Btw, how does one delete a whole page on there? There's a spam page about 'Nike Jerseys'
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby RyanCarey » Thu May 03, 2012 9:19 pm

You go to the page, look at Read / Edit / View History in the top right. Hover over the down arrow there then click delete. I'll leave this one to you.

Doesn't GWWC already have a wiki on poverty or some such related topic? If I recall, it is a similar size to Wiki Felicifia?
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Re: Influence: An Academic Department

Postby Brian Tomasik » Fri May 04, 2012 8:41 am

RyanCarey wrote:You go to the page, look at Read / Edit / View History in the top right. Hover over the down arrow there then click delete. I'll leave this one to you.

When I hover on the arrow, I don't have Delete as an option (only Move and Watch). Is that because I'm not an Admin on the wiki? Fortunately, page deletion isn't something we have to do very often (yet).

RyanCarey wrote:Doesn't GWWC already have a wiki on poverty or some such related topic? If I recall, it is a similar size to Wiki Felicifia?

Is it private? As always, I'm 100% in favor of making our material public. It sort of defeats the purpose of an online curriculum if no one can read it. :)
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