Phil Trammell: The case for ignoring the world’s current problems — or how becoming a ‘patient philanthropist’ could allow you to do far more good

post by Pablo_Stafforini · 2020-03-17T17:00:14.108Z · score: 28 (13 votes) · EA · GW · 2 comments

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note that we recorded this podcast before the appearance of COVID-19. And as we discuss, Phil makes the case that patient philanthropists should wait for moments in history when patient philanthropic resources can do the most good. Could the coronavirus crisis be one of those important historical episodes during which Phil would argue that even patient philanthropists should ramp up their spending?
We’ve spoken with him more recently, and he says that this strikes him as unlikely. The virus is certainly doing widespread damage, but most of this damage is expected to accrue in the next few years at most. As a result, this is the sort of crisis that governments and impatient philanthropists are happy to spend on (to the extent that spending can help at all).
On Phil’s view, therefore, patient philanthropists are still best advised to wait i) until they’re rich enough to better address, or fund more substantial preparation for, similar future crises, or, ii) until we face crises with unusually long-lasting impacts, not just unusually severe impacts.
If this is right, COVID-19 just serves as an example of the many temptations to spend in the present that patient philanthropists will have to resist, in order to reap the benefits that can come from waiting to do good.


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comment by evelynciara · 2020-03-18T19:06:27.086Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This was a very intriguing interview!

Question: If you're an economist (or other social scientist) trying to get into the global priorities field, should you join GPI or try to start global priorities research centers at other universities?

comment by trammell · 2020-03-18T21:11:25.263Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)


I'm far from qualified to give career advice to people who are already full-time academics, but I suppose I'd say,

  • If you've just graduated and are looking for a post-doc opportunity, or are coming from outside academia and willing to move to Oxford, then apply to GPI.
  • If you're already an academic elsewhere, then get in touch, come to one of the workshops GPI holds at the end of each Oxford term, and try shifting your research in a GPR direction. (We put together such a long research agenda partly in the hope that lots of interested researchers elsewhere will find something in it that they can get excited about.)
  • If you're a senior enough academic that you could set up a respectable global priorities research center elsewhere, then definitely get in touch! That could turn out to be a great idea, especially if you're an economist at a higher-ranked department than Oxford's. Forethought--GPI's sister org, which funds GPR activity outside of Oxford--would be a place to apply for funding for a project along those lines.