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Cody_Fenwick

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Hi — thanks for raising this issue.

As has been pointed out, the page where we (80k) detail the definition of “social impact” in depth is explicit that we do consider animals to be a part of impartial social impact. It’s not just in a footnote. The body of the article mentions animals and non-human sentient beings several times, including in this paragraph:

>We mean that we strive to treat equal effects on different beings’ welfare as equally morally important, no matter who they are — including people who live far away or in the future. In addition, we think that the interests of many nonhuman animals, and even potentially sentient future digital beings, should be given significant weight, although we’re unsure of the exact amount. Thus, we don’t think social impact is limited to promoting the welfare of any particular group we happen to be partial to (such as people who are alive today, or human beings as a species).

Also note that in the core argument of our article on longtermism, we strove to make clear that we’re not just concerned with future humans, but all morally relevant beings:

  1. We should care about how the lives of future individuals go.
  2. The number of future individuals whose lives matter could be vast.
  3. We have an opportunity to affect how the long-run future goes — whether there may be many flourishing individuals in the future, many suffering individuals in the future, or perhaps no one at all.

But there can be a trade off between succinctness and complete precision. Being succinct isn’t trivial — writing that is accessible and engaging can be much more effective than verbose academic prose. The page you linked to is a summary of our career planning course, so it's necessarily even more succinct than usual and doesn't delve into the details of each claim. Of course, we don’t want to mislead people about what we believe, so these kinds of decisions are always a balancing act, and we won’t always get it right.

Your post is a good reminder of how some ways of communicating these ideas can give the wrong impression, so we’re going to review whether and to what extent we should make changes to be clearer about this issue. The feedback is much appreciated!

— Cody from 80k

I think the most basic answer is that Scanlon's philosophy doesn't really address the questions the EA community is most interested in, i.e., what are the best opportunities to have a positive impact on the world? What We Owe to Each Other offers a theory of wrongness, which is a very different framing. 

I'm a fan of Scanlon's work, but it has some pretty significant gaps, in my opinion. For example, it doesn't give great guidance on how to think of moral obligations to non-human animals or future generations.

I think you can make a pretty persuasive Scanlonian-style argument for some of the GWWC-style work, global health interventions, etc. But I'm not sure the Scanlonian argument adds all that much to these topics.

I think people could probably get a lot out of reading Scanlon, especially those who want to better understand non-consequentialist approaches to morality. But there are a lot of good and important books to read, and I'm not sure I'd prioritise recommending Scanlon out of all the many possibilities.

Hi — thanks for for the question! That’s definitely what we care about most, but it’s also unsurprisingly very hard to track, as you say. We have different ways we try to assess our impact along these lines, but the best metrics we can share publicly are in an appendix to our two-year review that summarises the results of our user survey. You can also see Brenton's answer in a separate comment for much more detail about our efforts to track these metrics.

Thanks Yonatan! I was the editor of this review.

The section "How to enter infosecurity" has one section which discusses how to enter the field with a university degree. But it also notes: "However, you shouldn’t think of this as a prerequisite — there are many successful security practitioners without a formal degree." The following section discusses how to enter the field without formal training.

Whether any given individual should pursue a degree depends on a bunch of individual factors.

Your suggestion that EA orgs should have a "head of security" of some sort sounds plausible in many cases. But a lot will depend on the size of the organisation, its specific security needs, what other duties this person would be responsible for, etc., so it's hard to be generally prescriptive. As the review lays out, there's likely to be an ongoing security needs for many impactful orgs for the foreseeable future, and expertise in this domain will be needed at a variety of levels.

Thanks for sharing! This is really interesting — we’ve read it and will think about it.

Your updated estimate accords with what we wrote in our career review on founding a tech start-up (“people who have received venture capital funding or entered Y Combinator have on average earned millions of dollars per year”). It’s not as a up to date as we would ideally like, but it’s not among our top priorities right now.

- Cody from 80k