We host weekly seminars on research questions relevant to our mission. These seminars are open to fellow researchers interested in the field. If you are interested in coming to any of the seminars, please get in touch.
You can find a schedule for previous seminars at the Global Priorities Institute here.
Week 1 – Friday 19th January 2018 – 12pm-1pm
“Research questions on long-termism”
William MacAskill (GPI, Oxford)
Abstract: One of the central areas on GPI’s research agenda is ‘long-termism’, i.e. the view that the primary determinant of the value of the actions we take today is the effect of those actions on the very long-term future. This is a very popular view within the EA community, and has enormous importance if correct. This warrants much more work to make this argument rigorous, explore to what extent this view is justified on moral views other than total utilitarianism, and work out what exactly its implications are. In the opening seminar of this term, Will MacAskill will sketch out some of the important and interesting research questions in this area.
Week 2 – Tuesday 23rd January 2018 – 4-5.30 pm (venue TBA, drinks and dinner afterwards)
“The Ethics of Chaos”
Abstract: At least two strains of science suggest that we should be confident that every little thing we do, no matter how innocuous and inconsequential it may appear, has vast, far-ranging and in-principle-unknowable effects. So what? Does this make nonsense of an aspiration to improve the world through good work? I say it does not. But it should lead us to rethink the relation between grounds for action and grounds for relief and regret.
Please contact Michelle Hutchinson if you would like to come to dinner with the speaker after this talk.
Week 2 – Friday 26th January 2018 – 12-1.30 pm (lunch afterwards)
“Universal Health Care Coverage, Solution or Siren? Some preliminary thoughts”
In recent years, there has been a growing groundswell of support for the idea that universal health coverage should be provided even in the developing world. While I wholeheartedly agree with the eventual goal of attaining universal health coverage globally, and the sooner the better, I have worries as to whether the world’s rich countries, or institutions like the World Health Organization, should be pushing the world’s poorest countries to take whatever steps are necessary to achieve that goal. My fear is that universal health coverage in the developing world is an intoxicating, but potentially dangerous, idea whose time may not yet have come. This talk’s aim is not to settle the question of whether the developing world should be urged, or pushed, to adopt policies of universal health coverage. It is merely to explore some worries about the wisdom of such a tack.
Please contact Michelle Hutchinson if you would like to come to lunch with the speaker after this talk.
Week 3 – Friday 2nd February 2018 – 12-1 pm (lunch at Littlegate House afterwards)
“Literature review: Risk aversion and ambiguity aversion”
Abstract: The well-known phenomena of risk aversion and ambiguity aversion are relevant to several aspects of altruistic decision-making. These aspects include, but are not limited to: the extent to which one prioritises x-risk mitigation over other altruistic aims, and the extent to which it is rational to diversify funding across causes and/or interventions. In this session, Andreas and Teru will survey the current state of the literature both on the descriptive question of the extent to which preferences with these features are real, and on the normative question of the extent to which they are rational.
Week 4 – Friday 9th February 2018 – 5-6 pm (via Skype)
“Life and Growth”
Chad Jones (Stanford)
Abstract: Some technologies save lives — new vaccines, new surgical techniques, safer highways. Others threaten lives — pollution, nuclear accidents, global warming, the rapid global transmission of disease, and bioengineered viruses. How is growth theory altered when technologies involve life and death instead of just higher consumption? This paper shows that taking life into account has first-order consequences. Under standard preferences, the value of life may rise faster than consumption, leading society to value safety over consumption growth. As a result, the optimal rate of consumption growth may be substantially lower than what is feasible, in some cases falling all the way to zero.
Week 5 – Friday 16th February 2018 – 12-1 pm (lunch at Littlegate House afterwards)
“Axioms and Mechanisms for Donor Coordination”
Dominik Peters (Oxford)
Abstract: In this talk, we survey some existing literature in mechanism design that has applications to the problem of donor coordination. We will formalise this setting as a public goods market, and note connections to the problem of participatory budgeting, and of designing probabilistic voting rules. We then discuss some solution concepts (such as welfare maximisation, Nash equilibrium, Lindahl equilibrium, and the core), as well as desirable axioms that an allocation rule should satisfy. While there are some promising rules available, there are also strong impossibility theorems implying that all reasonable rules can be manipulated by free-riders.
Week 6 – Thursday 22nd February 2018 – 1-2.30 pm (Manor Road Lecture Theatre,in the Social Sciences Building, first floor)
“Global Extinction and Animal Welfare: Two Priorities for Effective Altruism”
Yew-Kwang Ng (Nanyang Technological University)
Effective altruism should ultimately be for the promotion of aggregate welfare. Broad altruism does not confine welfare to humans only. Thus, two priorities for broad and effective altruism may include reducing the probabilities of global extinction and the promotion of animal welfare. The former is important because if we become extinct, we lose the enormous amount of welfare into the far future. Also, we are faced with extinction probabilities that could be reduced, including through better environmental protection. Whether artificial intelligence may threaten our survival soon will also be discussed. An effective way to promote animal welfare is to reduce animal suffering at low or even negative costs on humans.
This is the first in an annual series of distinguished lectures in economics, named after the late Professor Sir Tony Atkinson. The series aims to encourage attention to global priorities research topics.
Week 6 – Friday 23rd February 2018 – 10.30-12.30pm (lunch afterwards)
Discussion session following Atkinson lecture,
Yew-Kwang Ng (Nanyang Technological University)
Please contact Michelle Hutchinson if you would like to come to lunch with the speaker after this session.
Week 7 – Friday 2nd March 2018 – 12-1 pm (lunch at Littlegate House afterwards)
“Introductory tutorial on causal inference and extrapolation”
On March 16-17 (week 9), Eva and GPI are co-organising a workshop on the topic of causal inference and extrapolation, focussing on new methods to get more information from impact evaluations (roughly: “getting more information from RCTs” and “beyond RCTs”). Eva has agreed to run this introductory tutorial session in advance of the workshop, to bring GPI researchers and other interested parties up to speed on the background material.
Week 8 – Friday 9th March 2018 – 12-1 pm (lunch at Littlegate House afterwards)