EA Long-Term Future Fund
Funding people or projects that aim to improve the long-term future, such as by reducing risks from AI and engineered pandemics.
The Long-Term Future Fund aims to positively influence the long-term trajectory of civilization by making grants that address global catastrophic risks, especially potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence and pandemics. In addition, we seek to promote, implement, and advocate for longtermist ideas, and to otherwise increase the likelihood that future generations will flourish.
The Fund has a broad remit to make grants that promote, implement and advocate for longtermist ideas. Many of our grants aim to address potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence and to build infrastructure and advocate for longtermist projects. However, we welcome applications related to long-term institutional reform or other global catastrophic risks (e.g., pandemics or nuclear conflict). We intend to support:
Projects that directly contribute to reducing existential risks through technical research, policy analysis, advocacy, and/or demonstration projects
Training for researchers or practitioners who work to mitigate existential risks, or help with relevant recruitment efforts, or infrastructure for people working on longtermist projects
Promoting long-term thinking
About the Long-Term Future Fund
The team comprises technical and policy researchers, and is advised by philanthropists and grantmakers from Open Philanthropy and the Centre for Effective Altruism, among others.
The Fund has historically made grants to researchers working on cause prioritization, existential risk identification and mitigation, and technical research toward the development of robust and beneficial artificial intelligence.
The Fund managers can be contacted at longtermfuture[at]effectivealtruismfunds.org
Grantmaking and Impact
The Long-Term Future Fund has recommended several million dollars' worth of grants to a range of organizations, including:
Supporting researchers working on relevant topics
Fields such as AI alignment and biosecurity are still relatively new, and it’s crucial to develop talent and provide researchers with the opportunity to make progress on important issues. The Fund has made numerous grants that support individual researchers – working in academia or alongside it – to develop skills and work on key problems.
Improving prediction and forecasting infrastructure
An important way that we can make progress on problems affecting the long-term future is to get better at making accurate predictions. Recent research by academics like Philip Tetlock has shown that good predictive reasoning systems can outperform seasoned experts. The Fund has made grants to a number of emerging prediction platforms that aggregate and refine predictions about future events, including Metaculus and Foretold, with the aim of systematically improving our ability to make good judgements about the future.
Helping researchers working on global catastrophic risks to collaborate
Researchers around the world need to connect and collaborate in order to make progress on important problems in their field. The Fund has supported events such as the Catalyst Biosummit, which brings together synthetic biologists, policymakers, academics, and biohackers to collaborate on mitigating biorisks, and the AI Safety Camp, which helps aspiring AI safety researchers to meet peers and receive mentoring as they begin their career.
Ought is a research lab that develops mechanisms for delegating open-ended thinking to advanced machine learning systems. Ought conducts research on deliberation and amplification, concepts with a bearing on AI alignment.
Producing video content on AI alignment for YouTube
Recruiting talented people to work on AI alignment is difficult, in part because many technically-minded people aren’t aware that their skills can be applied to solving relevant problems. Robert Miles is a YouTuber who produces engaging videos that aim to explain important concepts related to AI alignment in an accessible, accurate way. His recent videos have averaged around 75k views each.
Why donate to this Fund?
The future could include a large number of flourishing humans (or other beings). However, it is possible that certain risks could make the future much worse, or wipe out human civilization altogether. Actions taken to reduce these risks today might have large positive returns over long periods of time, greatly benefiting future people by making their lives much better, or by ensuring that there are many more of them. Donations to this fund might help to fund some of these actions and increase the chance of a positive long-term future.
Many people believe that we should care about the welfare of others, even if they are separated from us by distance, country, or culture. The argument for the long-term future extends this concern to those who are separated from us through time. Most people who will ever exist, exist in the future.
However, the emergence of new and powerful technologies puts the potential of these future people at risk. Of particular concern are global catastrophic risks. These are risks that could affect humanity on a global scale and could significantly curtail its potential, either by reducing human civilization to a point where it could not recover, or by completely wiping out humanity.
For example, tech companies are pouring money into the development of advanced artificial intelligence systems; while the upside could be enormous, there are significant potential risks if humanity ends up creating AI systems that are many times smarter than we are, but that do not share our goals.
As another example, previous disease epidemics, such as the bubonic plague in Europe, or the introduction of smallpox into the Americas were responsible for many millions of deaths. A genetically-engineered pathogen to which few humans had immune resistance could be devastating on a global scale, especially in today’s hyper-connected world.
In addition to supporting direct work, it’s also important to advocate for the long-term future among key stakeholders. Promoting concern for the long-term future of humanity — within academia, government, industry, and elsewhere — means that more people will be aware of these issues, and can act to safeguard and improve the lives of future generations.
Why you might choose not to donate to this Fund
We think it’s important that donors are well informed when they donate to EA Funds. As such, we think it’s useful to think about the reasons that you might choose to donate elsewhere.
You don’t think that we should focus on the long-term future
Donors might conclude that improving the long-term future is not sufficiently tractable to be worth supporting. It is very difficult to know whether actions taken now are actually likely to improve the long-term future. To gain feedback on their work, organizations must rely on proxy measures of success: Has the public become more supportive of their ideas? Are their researchers making progress on relevant questions? Unfortunately, there is no robust way of knowing whether succeeding on these proxy measures will cause an improvement to the long-term future. Donors who prefer tractable causes with strong feedback loops should consider giving to the Global Health and Development Fund.
You don’t think that future or possible beings matter, or that they matter significantly less
Some donors may think that future or possible beings do not matter morally, or matter less than beings who currently exist. For example, one might have a moral position similar to what philosophers term the Person-Affecting View. According to this view, “an act can only be bad if it is bad for someone, so that there is no moral obligation to create people, nor moral good in creating people” (Parfit (1991), p. 114). Donors who hold these views should consider supporting organizations which focus on helping existing people, perhaps through the Global Health and Development Fund.
You have a preference for supporting more established organizations
Donors may prefer to support established organizations. The fund's most recent grants have mostly funded newer organizations and individual researchers. This trend is likely to continue, provided that promising opportunities continue to exist.
You are pessimistic about room for more funding
Donors may be pessimistic about the room for more funding available in this area. Open Philanthropy has made global catastrophic risk reduction a major focus area and may fund many of the opportunities that the fund managers would find promising.
You have identified projects or interventions that seem more promising to you than our recommendations
Well-informed donors with a good knowledge of the space may be in a position to identify opportunities that may be more promising than the recommendations of the Fund. These donors may be able to have a bigger impact by continuing to conduct their own research, rather than deferring to the Fund managers.
You are skeptical of the risks posed by advanced artificial intelligence
Some donors may be skeptical that artificial intelligence constitutes a significant global catastrophic risk. While the Long-Term Future Fund is open to funding organizations that seek to reduce any type of global catastrophic risk — including risks from extreme climate change, nuclear war, and pandemics — grants so far have prioritized projects addressing risks posed by artificial intelligence, and the grantmakers expect to continue this at least in the short term.
You have different views about how to improve the long-term future
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