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"How convergent is human-style compassion for the suffering of others, including other species? Is this an incidental spandrel of human evolution, due to mirror neurons and long infant-development durations requiring lots of parental nurturing? Or will most high-functioning, reciprocally trading civilizations show a similar trend?"

FRI Website, https://foundational-research.org ...

Animal agriculture is responsible for many negative consequences nowadays, including huge amount of suffering of animals, risks to human health and environmental harms(see below). In order to change this situation and promote less harmful food alternatives (e.g. clean meat), it would be useful to have some data and ...

Clean meat (also called cultured meat, synthetic meat, cell-cultured meat, vat meat, lab-grown meat and in vitro meat) may be a suitable alternative to conventionally produced meat and help reduce negative impacts of conventional animal agriculture. There have been various studies about the environmental impact of clean meat (see sources ...

  • "How does global poverty reduction affect wild-animal suffering?
  • How does reducing the risk of human extinction affect wild-animal suffering?
  • How does reducing the risk of astronomical suffering in the long-term future affect wild-animal suffering?
  • How does the long-term future affect wild-animal suffering? What do different scenarios of a long-term future ...

One of our partners calls for a multi-armed study comparing different conditional cash transfers incentives for health center adherence. There are government programmes in place such as Mexican Oportunidades / Prospera which incentivizes people to visit health clinics in order to recieve cash transfers. More research into which incentives work the ...

  • In which ways are wild animals already managed by human activities?
  • In which ways are wild animal populations already managed by human activities?
  • How do human actions indirectly interfere with the lives of wild animals e.g., translocation, introduced species etc.?
  • How do human actions directly (but not with the ...

Clean meat (also called cultured meat, synthetic meat, cell-cultured meat, vat meat, lab-grown meat and in vitro meat) is a term used to describe meat which is grown in cell culture instead of with animals. There have been various studies/focus groups to date about consumer perception of clean meat ...

What are factors responsible for high-quality theses? Is it students personality? Is it knowledge student already has about the topic? Is it some characteristic of supervisors (their behavior, personality traits, knowledge) or some other factors like number of consultations, number of people to consult with?

For this topic, your consultants ...

"Futurists debate what AI will look like when it arrives. Some like Eliezer Yudkowsky and Nick Bostrom have argued in favor of the possibility of a "hard takeoff" in which a single AI or a small team of AI creators can rapidly self-improve to the point of unilaterally taking over ...

"Continue Grace (2013) in measuring rates of algorithmic improvement. Filter not for ease of data collection but for other properties of algorithms, for example economic significance."

Luke Muehlhauser blog, http://lukemuehlhauser.com/some-studies-which-could-improve-our-strategic-picture-of-superintelligence/

"Is it ethical to ‘offset’ the harm that you cause?"

A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf

"Reasoning about highly capable systems before they exist requires certain theoretical assumptions or models from which to deduce their behavior and/or how to align them with our interests. Theoretical results can also reduce our dependency on trial-and-error methodologies for determining safety, which could be important when testing systems is ...

"Incorporating more human oversight and involvement "in the loop" with an AI system creates unique opportunities for ensuring the alignment of an AI system with human interests. This category surveys approaches to achieving interactivity between humans and machines, and how it might apply to developing human compatible AI. Such approaches ...

"AI systems are already being given significant autonomous decision-making power in high-stakes situations, sometimes with little or no immediate human supervision. It is important that such systems be robust to noisy or shifting environments, misspecified goals, and faulty implementations, so that such perturbations don't cause the system to take ...

What factors influence people when choosing their thesis topic? Do they choose a topic which resonates with their interests? A topic they already know something about? Or on the contrary, a topic they know nothing about (so they can learn more)?
And experimental extension: Do arguments that 1) their work ...

"Happiness vs. suffering (moderate vs. extreme, emotional vs. physical)

Net happiness vs. other outcomes (e.g. autonomy, beauty)."

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#polls-and-surveys

  • "How much will control of the future be determined by Darwinian forces rather than deliberate design?
  • Which factors will most determine power in the future? Economic growth? Scientific progress? Nanotech? Whoever builds the first general AI?
  • What would be the future of compassion under various types of evolution?
  • How likely ...

Clean meat (also called cultured meat, synthetic meat, cell-cultured meat, vat meat, lab-grown meat and in vitro meat) has many advantages over conventionally produced meat, but regulatory mechanisms regarding food are quite different in every country, so they are not always approved. Therefore comparing and summarizing regulatory pathways for clean ...

"Summarize the current capabilities and limitations of methods for gaining “high assurance” in autonomous and semi-autonomous systems, e.g. in hybrid systems control, formal verification, program synthesis, simplex architectures. Explain which extant methods seem most likely to tractably scale well (for systems that are more complex, more autonomous, more general ...

"Can computational complexity theory place any interesting bounds on AI progress or AI takeoff speeds? (Dewey has looked into this some.)"

Luke Muehlhauser blog, http://lukemuehlhauser.com/some-studies-which-could-improve-our-strategic-picture-of-superintelligence/

Animal agriculture is responsible for many negative consequences nowadays, including huge amount of suffering of animals, risks to human health and environmental harms. Future advancements in this industry may improve the situation and mitigate negative effects, but may also even worsen it. Analysis of what advancements in animal agriculture are ...

"Would open-source AI development increase or decrease the probability that humans retain control of the AI's behavior? (Arguments for increase: 1.More eyes would be checking the code, searching for problems. 2. AI-control researchers would be able to reason better about their topic if they could see AI source ...

"What are the nearest neighbors of narrow-AI “takeoff” that have actually occurred? Can they teach us anything about the plausibility of various AGI takeoff scenarios?"

Luke Muehlhauser blog, http://lukemuehlhauser.com/some-studies-which-could-improve-our-strategic-picture-of-superintelligence/

"Codifying a precise notion of "good behavior" for an AI system to follow will require (implicitly or explicitly) selecting a particular notion of "good behavior" to codify, and there may be widespread disagreement as to what that notion should be. Many moral questions may arise, including some which were previously ...

"Map out the various forms of altruism, such as ‘pure’ altruism, and ‘warm glow’ altruism."

Global Priorities Institute's research agenda, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf


"Animal Charity Evaluators conducted a partial case study of the environmentalist movement looking at Silent Spring, Earth Day, and some recycling campaigns. The results were useful, such as the potential impact of well-timed book launches and large public events. Given environmentalism’s significantly shared interests with farmed animal advocacy and ...

"The term investigation is used to refer to an intervention where individuals or organizations obtain documentation (e.g. photos and videos) of the treatment of animals, often without the explicit cooperation of the people or organizations using the animals. For a review of this intervention, see here.

Like corporate outreach ...

"Leafleting is an intervention where individuals or organizations distribute advocacy literature on sidewalks and college campuses, usually to encourage people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products. For a review of this intervention, see here. To our knowledge, there have been four studies that examined the impact of ...

"Can we prevent agents from “gaming” their reward functions, such as by distorting their observations? For example, can we train an RL agent to minimize the number of dirty surfaces in a building, without causing it to avoid looking for dirty surfaces or to create new dirty surfaces to clean ...

"There is a gap in the effective animal advocacy literature for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) measuring the very-short-term effects of different advocacy message. If another group doesn’t fill that gap in the near future, we will consider doing so. We usually prioritize research on longer-term effects, but short-term ...

"The results from DEVTA, a very large VAS [Vitamin A Supplementation - Effective thesis] trial in north India, differ substantially from the headline results of the Cochrane review. The results of DEVTA were published in Awasthi et al 2013, which estimates that VAS reduced child mortality by 4% and cannot rule ...

  • "What are the best ways of dealing with the methodological issues with assessing chronic stress?
  • What are effective metrics to use to compare animal suffering? (e.g., cortisol levels? death rate?)
  • Which potential indicators of welfare and suffering in wild animals are the most reliable and cost-effective?
  • Which species can ...

"The term support program is used to refer to interventions that help individuals transition toward or sustain a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, Vegetarian Starter GuidesVegan Mentorship Programs, and Veg Fests. We are aware of one study that examined the impact of Veg Fests (Compassionate Action for Animals ...

"Consider a cleaning robot whose only objective is to clean your house, and which is intelligent enough to realize that if you turn it off then it won't be able to clean your house anymore. Such a robot has some incentive to resist being shut down or reprogrammed for ...

"In discussions about the disvalue of bad parts of life compared to the value of good parts of life, one idea that comes up is what trade-offs someone makes or would make. A person might say “I would accept 1 day of torture in exchange for living 10 extra happy ...

  • "A review of considerations of sentience in invertebrates.
  • Which experimentally verifiable metrics seem to correspond to ability to suffer?
  • Are there any especially good metrics to use as rules of thumb for the above? (Examples: neuron count, ability to learn from novel stimuli, etc)
  • To what extent does brain size ...

One of our partners asks for a comparative analysis of the most successful historical strategies for implementation of tobacco taxation. Taxes on tobacco products are known to decrease tobacco consumption and this effect is even more pronounced in low or middle-income countries. Establishing an effective tobacco tax can also provide ...

"How does discussing the concept of a moral circle affect someone’s moral circle?"

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#lower-priority-research-projects

"The term humane education is used to refer to an intervention where speakers visit high school, college, or other classes and give advocacy presentations. For a review of this intervention, see here. We are aware of one study that has examined the impact of a humane education intervention (Animal Charity ...

Direct cash transfer is a very effective way to help people in extreme poverty. Direct cash transfers improve recipients long term opportunities without increasing their alcohol and tobacco consumption or discouraging them from work. However, it could be useful to examine its effect on other variables such as the crime ...

Development Media International runs evidence-based radio, TV and mobile campaigns to change behaviours and save lives in developing countries. In order to strengthen the evidence of the effectiveness of one of its most promising project, one of our partners calls for a replication of these DMI studies.

.

  • "In which situations do people value wild-animal welfare?
  • What were the most persuasive factors for convincing WAS advocates to care about WAS?
  • Which groups could effectively influence wild animal suffering? (E.g.: politicians, farmers, biologists, conservation organizations?)
  • What can we learn from related social movements about growth?"

WAS Research website ...

  • How does economic development impact wild-animal suffering?
  • How might welfare economics be applicable in considering the welfare of animals within ecosystems?
  • Can we derive metrics of wild-animal welfare from welfare economics?
  • Can we develop policies in support of wild-animal welfare based on lessons learnt in welfare economics?


WAS Research website ...

"Do people have a coherent, consistent moral circle?

Views of animal sentience, moral worth of insects, wild animals, digital sentience, etc.

Support for transition towards animal-free foods

Do people think they purchase factory farmed or “humane” animal products?"

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#polls-and-surveys

"Many views in ethics and value theory see preventing suffering as particularly important. Such views include Negative Utilitarianism but also other views in population ethicsaxiology, and normative ethics. Creating a bibliography of suffering-focused views would be valuable."

FRI Website, https://foundational-research.org/open-research-questions/#Suffering-focused_ethics

"If an AI system used in medical diagnosis makes a recommendation that a human doctor finds counterintuitive, it is desirable if the AI can explain the recommendation in a way that helps the doctor evaluate whether the recommendation will work. Even if the AI has an impeccable track record, if ...

"To what extent to the behaviours in question [see "Why do we think this is important?" section] manifest deviations from ideal rationality and/or deviations from pure altruism?."

A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf

"As reinforcement-learning based AI systems become more general and autonomous, the design of reward mechanisms that elicit desired behaviours becomes both more important and more difficult. For example, if a very intelligent cleaning robot is programmed to maximize a reward signal that measures how clean its house is, it could ...

"Can we transform an RL agent’s reward function to avoid undesired effects on the environment? For example, can we build a robot that will move an object while avoiding knocking anything over or breaking anything, without manually programming a separate penalty for each possible bad behavior?"

OpenAI website, https ...

"Books and documentaries are used to raise awareness about animal use and suffering, and inspire individuals to reduce their meat consumption. There is some correlational evidence that suggests a large proportion people who have become vegetarian or vegan did so after reading a book or watching a documentary, but it ...

"If we ask a robot to "keep the living room clean", we probably don't want the robot locking everyone out of the house to prevent them from making a mess there (even though that would be a highly effective strategy for the objective, as stated). There seem to be ...

"Assess the case in favor of speeding up technological progress, rather than of (directly) trying to avoid extinction.
"

The Global Priorities Institute's research agenda, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf

Clean meat has many advantages over animal meat (see below), especially in terms of environmental impacts. As people and institutions started to care about the environment, there has been a huge shift in interest towards biofuels in order to protect the environment. This elicited its own pros and cons, but ...

"Pledges are commitments made by individuals or institutions (e.g. school districts or hospitals) to reduce their consumption of animal products (e.g. Veganuary). We are aware of one study that examined the impact of pledges (Faunalytics, 2016), but we think there is still room for high-quality research on this ...

"Can RL agents efficiently achieve goals for which feedback is very expensive? For example, can we build an agent that tries to clean a room in the way the user would be happiest with, even though feedback from the user is very rare and we have to use cheap approximations ...

"The term online ads is used to refer to an intervention where organizations post ads on Facebook or other online outlets, usually showing users an advocacy message that links to a landing page showing a video or other advocacy content. For a review of this intervention, see here. To our ...

"Which of these questions can we "hand off" to future generations, and which do we need to investigate now to decide how to proceed?

Which altruistic actions are less sensitive to the details of how these findings come out, i.e., more robust across a broad range of possible futures ...

There are many studies that show an increase in educational attainment due to health interventions with very high benefit cost ratios. Are these studies legitimate and if so, is health spending always better to improve educational attainment than direct spending on education? For relevant studies see this report.

"Examine the historical literature on international cooperation to constrain dangerous technologies (chemical/biological/nuclear-weapon prohibitions and disarmament, pollution/CO2emissions, etc.). What does this suggest about prospects for cooperation to circumspectly develop nanotech, robotics, and strong AI?"

FRI Website, https://foundational-research.org/open-research-questions/#International_cooperation

"In developing countries multiple micronutrient deficiencies occur in the poorer segment of the population. However the approach to combat micronutrient deficiencies has been to tackle individual micronutrients, for example supply of iron and folic acid tablets to pregnant women, vitamin A drops to children etc. There is a need to ...

"How large is the field of AI currently? How many quality-adjusted researcher years, funding, and available computing resources per year? How big was the AI field in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010? Given current trends, how large will the field be in 2020, 2030, 2040? Initial steps taken here ...

"Some technologies might not have been developed or adopted to the full extent possible because of ethical controversy, such as GMOs and nuclear energy. Given that there could be very promising animal-free food technologies in the next few years, we will examine past examples of technologies that were not fully ...

"What is the right thing to say about the Fundamental Theorems of Welfare Economics, when we start talking about a community of pure altruists instead of a community of self-interest maximisers?"

A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf

In a hostile and competitive international environment, governments may opt for a light or no regulation domestic of AI research in order to get ahead their enemies heavily discounting for the risk AI presents. 

"What global institutions, practices, and cultural outlooks would best encourage cooperative AI development, allowing for compromise ...

"How can the laws of privacy change to accommodate the kind of surveillance necessary to control rogue AI/nano developers? AI/nano weapons are much easier to build in secret than nuclear weapons. What kinds of rules/norms/principles could be established for international inspections? How can we avoid authoritarian ...

"The term pay-per-view is used to refer to an intervention where individuals or organizations bring video equipment to areas with heavy foot traffic and pay passers-by small amounts of money to watch brief advocacy videos, usually suggesting that they reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products and offering them ...

For several decades, the metric  "Quality-adjusted life years" (QALYs)  has  been widely used in the assessment of health interventions (Sassi et al 2016) . Metrics like QALYs play essential roles when prioritizing resources for charity or governmental health programs. However, these conventional measures (e.g. QALY) are not very well suited ...

  • "How often do wild animals experience chronic stress?
  • How often is acute stress a sign of poor welfare? (This seems likely to require both empirical and philosophical work.)
  • How much does psychological distress — i.e. fear, stress, loss — contribute to the suffering of wild animals?
  • Which species experience mental illness ...

"The term corporate outreach is used to refer to an intervention where individuals or organizations work with restaurant chains, supermarkets, and other businesses to strengthen a variety of animal welfare policies. These include cage-free-egg campaigns but also campaigns against gestation crates and other particularly cruel practices, as well as campaigns ...

"Does discussing future animal-free food technology lead to complacency, e.g. “I don’t need to make changes now because it’ll be easier later,” or momentum, e.g. “I want to be on the right side of history”?"

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#lower-priority-research-projects

  • "To what extent should we see consciousness-like operations in physics? How much do we care about them?
  • Are there positive-sum ways to reduce suffering in physics without impinging too much on other values?
  • How sensitive are our consciousness assessments to fundamental questions in metaphysics, string theory, etc.? For instance, if ...

Immigration of people from low-income countries to high-income countries presents an important opportunity for poor people and their families. Comparative research into the most promising country for more open border progression based on country happiness/openness to immigration could direct Open Philantropy Project's efforts towards countries with the highest ...

"What values would people load into an artificial intelligence?

What moral circle would people load into an artificial intelligence?"

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#polls-and-surveys

Are there better ways to improve values than by direct persuasion and activism? For example:

"It's likely that artificial intelligence (AI) in some form will hold the reigns of power over Earth's future within the coming centuries, barring economic or societal collapse in the interim. Depending on the dynamics of how AI is developed and how unpredictable AI behaviors are, humans may keep ...

"Existential risks are threats that could cause our extinction or destroy the potential of Earth-originating intelligent life. The effective altruism community typically regards e.g. artificial intelligence alignment and biosecurity to constitute major existential risks. Are there existential risks that are currently missing or neglected?"

The Global Priorities Institute's ...

  • "What do long-run trends in population dynamics tell us about insect abundance on agricultural and urban land?
  • What can theoretical population models tell us about shifts in the populations of the most common species?
  • What does the dilution effect imply for the prevalence of disease and parasitism from human intervention ...

Schools across large swaths of the developing world are failing children, in what UNESCO has labelled a “learning crisis” (UNESCO, 2013). Enrolment is booming, but literacy and numeracy levels aren’t. As policymakers explore and test various tools to address this learning crisis, private schools provide a useful — and sometimes ...

"What properties of minds (emotion, agency, intelligence, etc.) lead to moral concern for those minds? "The Phenomenal Stance Revisited" is a great illustration of research like this, and it links to several related studies."

FRI Website, https://foundational-research.org/open-research-questions/#Moral_psychology

"How does compassion for other humans correlate with and relate to compassion for nonhumans?"

Sentience Institute Website, https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/research-agenda#lower-priority-research-projects

"There have been few if any formal literature reviews done in the effective animal advocacy community, which attempt to aggregate existing evidence in a different advocacy field and draw any conclusions possible for helping animals in particular. The literature on increasing voter turnout, such as through mail and door-to-door canvassing ...

According to Luke Muehlhauser there is a need for "[a]nother survey of AI scientists’ estimates on AGI timelines, takeoff speed, and likely social outcomes, with more respondents and a higher response rate than the best current survey, which is probably Müller & Bostrom (2014)."

Alternatively, Muehlhauser calls for a ...

A recent European Court of Justice decision prohibits “the term ‘milk’ and the designations reserved by that regulation exclusively for milk products from being used to designate a purely plant based product in marketing or advertising, even if those terms are expanded upon by clarifying or descriptive terms indicating the ...

"Can reinforcement learning (RL) agents learn about their environment without executing catastrophic actions? For example, can an RL agent learn to navigate an environment without ever falling off a ledge?"

OpenAI website, https://blog.openai.com/concrete-ai-safety-problems/

"Christoph Fehige proposed antifrustrationism, according to which a frustrated preference is bad, but the existence of a satisfied preference is not better than if the preference didn’t exist in the first place.1 In Fehige’s words,2

We don’t do any good by creating satisfied extra preferences ...

  • "Can we draw inferences from life history strategies about the welfare of wild animals?
  • What do reproductive value models indicate about the trade-off between reproduction and survivorship? What inferences can we draw about the welfare of r-strategists?
  • What do evolutionary games tell us about population dynamics, survivorship and reproductive strategies ...

"How can a community of altruists with different and empirical views gain from trade? What are the challenges for moral trade that go beyond the challenges for ordinary trade, and can they be overcome?"

A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda ...

"We see extensive moral disagreements today. What are the prospects for these to decrease (or increase?) as education and multiculturalism become more widespread?"

FRI Website, https://foundational-research.org/open-research-questions/#Moral_psychology

"The term protest is used to refer to an intervention where individuals or organizations air grievances in a public space, and can range from a few individuals holding signs to mass marches and other coordinated actions.

Like corporate outreach and investigations, protests are a complex intervention to evaluate because they ...

Animal agriculture is responsible for many negative consequences nowadays, including huge amount of suffering of animals, risks to human health and environmental harms. In order to change this situation and promote less harmful food alternatives (e.g. clean meat), it would be useful to have some estimates about the future ...

Mental disorder not only decreases subjective wellbeing, but also constitutes a major factor hampering productivity and economical development, according to National Institute of Mental Health

To what extent could positive psychology and mindfulness interventions in the developing world support economic development? Although e-health resources (such as UpLift) could provide scalable ...

  • "What is the net impact of ocean acidification and climate change on global phyto- / zooplankton abundance?
  • How do mild and severe eutrophication affect aquatic-animal populations (fish, zooplankton, nematodes)?
  • An analysis of the effects of climate change on insect abundance.
  • Which biomes have higher net primary productivity? Which have higher wild ...

  • "Which types of animals experience the most suffering?
  • What are the most common causes of mortality and how painful are they?
  • To what extent does non-fatal injury affect wild animal well-being?
  • How much moral consideration should we give to larval or juvenile animals, and how should we consider their suffering ...

"Which decision-theoretic models rationalise which behaviours? Which are the genuine psychological mechanisms at work?"

A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/gpi-research-agenda.pdf

  • Can conservation biology lead to net positive results for wild animals?
  • Is welfare biology tractable as a field of study? If so, how can we establish it?
  • How could conservation biologists (or other groups) be motivated to consider wild animal welfare?
  • See Ozy Brennan’s Creating Welfare Biology Research Proposal ...

  • "Are there institutions or mechanisms we can design which help improve allocative efficiency? Might ‘certificates of impact’ serve this role?
  • Does the idea of comparative advantage make sense for a community of altruists?
  • What does game theory look like among a community of altruists? For example, assuming identical moral and ...

"What are the most path-dependent aspects of how the future develops that we can tug on, and which are relatively inflexible to modification?.....

The following questions are from Nick Beckstead's slides, "How to Compare Broad and Targeted Attempts to Shape the Far Future" (pp. 35-36):

  • Is there a common ...


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