01 June 2022

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 utilitarianism.net.


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: