I spend a lot of time in Effective Altruism related spaces and have been thinking about how some recent trends in the EA world may impact Progress Studies and its development. In the last few years, the EA community started bifurcating into two distinct groups: long-termists and near-termists.

The primary difference between the groups rests on a difference in philosophical worldview. Long-termists are often a variation of total utilitarians who believe that those living today, 100 or 100,000 years in the future all deserve equal moral weight and concern. This is to say there is no temporal discount rate of lives; they are all equal, no matter when one is born (near-termists generally are not total utilitarians and discount future lives greatly)

I was thinking about how this may impact the development of Progress Studies.

I am not a long-termist or a total utilitarian. I accept a strong temporal discount rate and care significantly more about those currently alive (and those who will be born in my life time) than those who may be alive 100,000 years from now. I also accept a very mild discount rate for those who are less proximate/similar to me.

Given these values, my interest in Progress Studies is largely driven by a desire to improve the quality of life for those alive during the next century, especially those in my society. While I care deeply about increasing the rate of innovation, this is off-set by a desire to increase short-term efficiency and wellbeing. 

In contrast, if I cared deeply about the people in the far future, I think my interest in Progress Studies would orient almost exclusively on innovation at the expense of everything else. 

Specifically, my views on what type of progress matters, on questions like increasing GDP (good, but not everything), consumption (should decrease) inequality (very bad),  immigration (should be increased greatly but short of open borders), role of capital/commodification in society (good but should not be increased at any cost), working conditions (people should work less) etc. are vastly different given my concern for the quality of life in society today. Supporting this short-term vision of progress may diminish the amount of progress 1000 years in the future, and I am very okay with that.

With all that out of the way, I am curious to hear from others in this community on how they think different philosophical worldviews may impact the development Progress Studies. Specifically, should Progress Studies be neutral in this regard? Is there a specific timeline that Progress Studies should be more focussed on? 


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