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Key points

  •  We host a Discord server for discussing animals and longtermism. You are more than welcome to join here.
  • There are compelling reasons to help those who will live in the long-term future, and there are compelling reasons to help nonhuman animals. As such, the intersection between longtermism and animal advocacy is starting to receive a bit more attention among the EA community.
  • This post has three main purposes:
    • To invite you to our Discord server on animals and longtermism (link above).
    • To share a list of resources on animals and longtermism that we've collected over time, in case this helps anybody.
    • To share some details about an organisation we almost launched, which would have aimed to find the best interventions for helping animals in the long-term future. We got funding, but the grant was awarded by an FTX Future Fund regrantor, so the funding fell through. In this post, we have linked our grant application/plans in case anybody wants to pick up where we left off.

Background to animals and longtermism

There are many reasons why animal advocacy and longtermism can help each other do even more good. These reasons are explored in detail in the resources that we list below. To quickly name a few:

  • The expected number of animals in the far future could be simply enormous. This means that considering the lives of animals in the far future could be a great way to have a large impact. As Browning and Viet conclude, "Work on longtermism has thus far primarily focused on the existence and wellbeing of future humans, without corresponding consideration of animal welfare. [...] Given the sheer expected number of future animals, as well as the likelihood of their suffering, we argue that the well-being of future animals should be given serious consideration when thinking about the long-term future, allowing for the possibility that in some cases their interests may even dominate."
  • Animal welfare may represent most of the moral value in the far future. This means that longtermists may need to consider the perspective of animal advocacy in order to do the most good.
  • Most animals might exist in the long-term future. This means that animal advocates may need to consider the perspective of longtermists in order to do the most good.
  • Society’s attitude towards animals is important for the long-term trajectory of society's moral values.

Animals may also interact with new phenomena, like artificial intelligence, space colonisation, artificial sentience, and brain emulations in ways that are likely to have serious moral implications.

So far, research on animals in the long-term future has fallen into these broad buckets:

  • Animals and space colonisation (making sure space exploration and colonisation is animal-friendly)
  • Wild animal welfare (e.g. resilience of wild animal populations over time, introducing wild animals to other planets, how artificial intelligence affects wild animals)
  • Animals and artificial intelligence (making sure artificial intelligence and machine learning is designed with animals in mind)
  • Digital animal minds
  • Health of the animal advocacy movement (to enable animal advocacy to sustain its efforts over time)
  • Further (meta) thinking on longtermism and animals

Resources on animals and longtermism

General animals and longtermism

The effects of artificial intelligence on animals

Wild animal suffering in the long-term future

Factory farming and space exploration

Moral circle expansion

(Credit: some of these resources I discovered on the Discord and in these slides)

Organisations working on longtermism and animals

There are a few organisations and people working on longtermism and animals, whether explicitly or indirectly. Many of these will already be well-known in EA circles (e.g. Animal Ethics, Sentience Institute, Wild Animal Initiative, Rethink Priorities, Center on Long-Term Risk, Center for Reducing Suffering, Good Ancestors Project). The biggest initiative that I'm aware of that might be less well-known in EA circles is the NYU Mind, Ethics, and Policy (MEP) Program (EA Forum post here).

The charity we almost started

  • We (myself + the rest of the moderator team from the Discord server) almost started an organisation that would have been dedicated to doing systematic research to identify the most promising ideas (if any) for launching new interventions focused on helping animals in the long-term future. (Then, the plan was, we would seek further funding in the future to actually launch those promising interventions.)
  • I was aiming for something along the lines of the research side of Charity Entrepreneurship or perhaps CEARCH, both of which invest systematic research into figuring out the most promising interventions or causes for new effective charities - except our version would have had an explicit focus on animals and longtermism.
  • We were awarded an initial USD $55,000 grant to hire a researcher to start our organisation. You can see the grant application, plus an extensive community discussion, here on Manifold Markets (archive link here).
  • However, this grant was recommended by an FTX Future Fund regrantor, so the funding fell through. We have pursued a few other options, but given the new (tighter) EA funding situation and my subsequent decision to increase my commitments in my day job, we haven't had any luck.
  • If you're interested in the interventions themselves, there is a brainstormed list available here. Note that we're skeptical of many/all of the ideas on the list - we were just noting down ideas that came to us over time, understanding that most would end up looking ineffective. The full-time researcher we were about to hire would have conducted a systematic research process first to expand this list and then to figure out which, if any, of these intervention ideas are actually any good. So please don't put too much weight onto these ideas, but they could be a useful starting point if you want to do something similar.

(This post describes work I've pursued in my spare time, and isn't directly related to my job at Animal Ask.)

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