Post Prize #2: Building Agency

Post Prize #2: Building Agency

Tyler Cowen writes: “At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind […] This is in fact one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and with your life.”

We agree. For this post prize, we want to read your advice on how and why to increase your agency, reject ‘cheems mindset’, and aim higher. We want readers to feel more empowered to act on that idea they had for improving the world.

We don’t want to read a highly theoretical account of the meaning of agency. We want concrete, actionable advice for yourself or others on now to actually increase your agency. Stories and examples are encouraged.

Prize: Like before, we’ll award $1000 to the most outstanding pieces

Deadline: Opens June 1st, Closes June 29th

How to submit: When you have finished your piece, tweet a link to it and tag and follow our Twitter, @effective_ideas. If you’re not on Twitter, email it to with the subject line Post Prize #2. Looking forward to reading them! Continue reading “Post Prize #2: Building Agency”

Post Prize #1: Winners & Honorable Mentions

Post Prizes!

Announcing the winners of Post Prize #1: The world in 2072

We loved reading all your entries to our first Post Prize, where we asked you to describe the world 50 years from now. We’re awarding prizes of $1,000 to:

The Anatomy of Choice and The Uploading by Xander Balwit — two memorable and affecting short stories imagining scenes from a world with artificial wombs and the choice to preserve and ‘upload’ somebody’s personality. We liked how the stories were neither utopian nor dystopian, but conveyed the nuance of a world in which emancipatory technology has arrived and our culture is still adjusting around it.

The World in 2072 by Sam Atis — speaking of worlds that fall between utopia and dystopia: we enjoyed Sam Atis’ attempt to describe the boring timeline — “where things go mostly pretty well but some things also go pretty badly.”

Sensor 7182 by Chris Webster — we loved this piece imagining a biosafe world. A fine example of the ‘preparedness paradox’.

Three Non-Dystopian Visions of 2072 by En Kepeig — this piece asks what to expect if we’re serious about the possibility of artificial general intelligence arriving within the next few decades. Some of the futures look wild.

Honorable mentions

  • The Cultural Superpowers of 2072 by Pradyumna Prasad — “By almost any measure America is the most culturally dominant country in the world.” Will that last? Prasad investigates.
  • The servers are on the moon by Finn Hambly — imagines a 2072 of mind uploading in a charming “letter from the future” style that reminds us of Bostrom’s ‘Letter from Utopia’. A highlight: “As for the AI stuff, it’s good at art and science — and it basically powers everything — but it doesn’t decide anything, really.”
  • The World in 2072 by Tom Spencer — a convincing case that simple extrapolation from the last half century of economic growth give us reasons for optimism about 2072
  • 2072: SpaceX Annual Shareholder Report by Connor and Maxwell Tabarrock — an imagining of Mars colonization that feels almost… plausible. Contained Avital’s favorite line (the part where Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence makes an appearance).
  • The World in 2072 by Dan Elton — considering the underrated trends that will shape 2072. India, transhumanism, AI, abundant energy, instability.

Blog Prize Digest: May

It’s been another huge month for the blog prize. Make sure to check out our first post prize winners and second contest!

Some of our favorites from the blog roll


almost all of the important real-world implications of utilitarianism stem from [one] feature, one that I think probably ought to be shared by every sensible moral view.  It’s just the claim that it’s really important to help others—however distant or different from us they may be.

Richard Y Chappell makes a strong case for the philosophy of ‘beneficentrism’: “utilitarianism minus the controversial bits”. While critics of utilitarianism tend to focus on its edge cases and controversial features, Chappell argues that its central insight is important, and underappreciated: help others, the more the better. This seems both uncontroversially good, and in practice bold and underappreciated. Chappell is on a roll with his blog Good Thoughts. For more on utilitarianism, he also helps run

Guided by the Beauty of One’s Philosophies

Whatever the situation, it should be obvious that aesthetics matter. They matter because they are unavoidable — if you don’t define them, they will be defined for you, probably in a haphazard way — and because they are often associated with success in some way […] Companies, political parties and philosophical movements that ignore their aesthetics are poised to do less good for the world (at least according to them) than they could otherwise do.

Étienne Fortier-Dubois has been struggling to feel excited about engaging with effective altruism, despite basically buying the key ideas. Why? “[T]he most interesting explanation I have at the moment is that Effective Altruism has an aesthetic problem. Its visual style is underdeveloped. Its ideas are expressed with dry and boring language. It inspires very little art. As a result, it has been difficult for me to get excited about contributing, or even to make sure that the values of the movement match mine. And I’m not the only one in this situation.”

When do ideas get harder to find?

A science of progress felt daunting, but Holton believed it was extremely worth doing. He believed that the study of the messy personal context of discoveries could soon come into its own as a full-fledged field.

Eric Gilliam introduces the ideas of Gerard Holton, a Progress Studies predecessor. Fascinating, comprehensive, and relevant!

Cultural philanthropy: Influencing the culture to improve the world

But there is another kind of philanthropy—one that is much less common, but growing in importance. It’s based on the idea that the culture we live in influences the decisions of everyday people, entrepreneurs and policymakers. Recognising that influence, this kind of philanthropy wants to change that culture.

Shakeel Hashim coins and explains the idea of “cultural philanthropy”. The blog prize gets a shout-out too!

Interland: The Country In The Intersection

Innovation in governance is needed to solve many of the world’s problems. But innovation requires entry.

Maxwell Tabarrock returns with a compelling thought experiment: a model of legislating new countries or cities at the intersection of other countries’ laws.

See also Vitalik Buterin’s comment!

From the judges:

  • Fin is currently helping set up a prize for critiques and red teaming of / for effective altruism — stay tuned. He also recently spoke with Jason Crawford about progress studies, stagnation, and (existential) safety.
  • Leopold is still hard at work with the FTX Future Fund
  • Nick is cycling from NYC to Montreal 🚴
  • Avital took a few days off for the first time in a while!

If you are still hungry for more posts

Particle accelerator infographic of the month

Check out this graph, showing how sub-technologies can ‘branch’ and ‘leapfrog’ one another to sustain exponential improvement, in this case for particle accelerators: