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Effective Altruism and Political Science (Virtual Session)

Sat, September 17, 12:00 to 1:30pm, TBA

Session Submission Type: Virtual Roundtable

Session Description

In recent years, the philosophy of effective altruism has had a large impact on the philanthropic world and on scholarship in philosophy departments; it is now growing in political science. The exact definition of effective altruism is fuzzy, as it can mean slightly different things to different people, but a reasonable first-pass approximation of the main question it asks may be: “given that we are sentient entities with particular limited knowledge and particular limited powers, what is the best use of our limited resources to minimize the suffering of all sentient entities, not just now, but also into the future?”
That first pass approximation is dense and leaves much unpacked. For example, how does the welfare of non-humans, like animals, weigh in relation to human welfare? How do we weigh the welfare of current generations relative to future generations? And much, much more.
The hope of our panel is that we can help unpack some of these questions. Additionally, we hope to help answer questions like:
(1) How can political science and effective altruism research minimize suffering?
(2) How can effective altruism research inform political science?
(3) How can political science research inform effective altruism?
(4) What are the potential areas connecting the philosophical movement of effective altruism and the major subfields of political science, as practiced in the United States: (a) political theory & philosophy, (b) international relations, (c) comparative politics & area studies, (d) American politics, and (e) methods.
Our first speaker is philosopher Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Arguably the progenitor of effective altruism, he will discuss his understanding of effective altruism, its history, and how he thinks political science and effective altruism research can inform each other.
Our second speaker is philosopher Toby Ord, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at Oxford University. He will catalog major existential threats and specify ways political science research could potentially avoid these threats. Additionally, he will discuss areas of research synergy between political theory and effective altruism.
Our third speaker is political scientist Allan Dafoe, president of the Centre for the Governance of AI and Senior Research Scientist in AI Strategy and Governance at DeepMind. Previously an Associate Professor in the International Politics of AI at Yale University and Oxford University, he will specify potential effective altruism research areas in international relations, and area studies/comparative politics.
Our fourth speaker is political scientist Mahendra Prasad, Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. An expert on value alignment, social choice, and democratic theory, he will discuss potential effective altruism research areas in American politics and methods.
Our roundtable will be moderated by public policy researcher Caroline Jeanmaire who is pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University focused on reducing the existential risk related to artificial intelligence, based on some of the ideas of effective altruism. She was previously the director of strategic research and partnerships at the Center for Human-Compatible AI at Berkeley.

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