In-Depth EA Program: Syllabus

In-Depth EA Program: Syllabus

Always aim to complete the core reading and exercise before the session. Further reading is always optional.

Here are some discussion norms we'd like to stick by during the program
  • Respect
    • Being nice, not interrupting others, not starting side conversations to the main discussion, objections to ideas not to people, not rolling eyes, laughing etc at others.
  • Constructiveness
    • In order to encourage constructive discussion we encourage people to not present objections as flat dismissals, and leave open the possibility there is a response.
    • In the discussions, we’ll be clarifying our understanding of the reading, and talking through our perspectives. Naturally, some of us are therefore going to disagree with each other.
    • Unconstructive responses to disagreement:
      • Trying to convince everyone that you’re right
      • Flatly dismissing objections or other points of view
    • Constructive responses to disagreement:
      • Trying to figure out what the other person thinks, and why
        • A different worldview? Which part of this caused the disagreement?
        • A difference in model? Can we find the crux of disagreement?
      • Leaving open the possibility that you are wrong
      • Leaving open the possibility that there is nuance
  • Inclusiveness
    • Be mindful of dominating the discussion - after one person speaks, ask others for their responses rather than responding to each point yourself.
    • Explain any technical terms or acronyms used that have not been explained
    • Feel like it’s okay to ask for clarification on points or unfamiliar terms used
    • Acknowledge and listen to points made by others
  • Using a hand/finger/fist system, either with your hand or by typing into the chat box if done remotely:
    • “Hand” or ✋ to mean “I want to discuss a new point”
      • The facilitator of the discussion can collate these and then indicate the next person to speak.
    • “finger” or ✌ to mean “I want to comment on the existing point”
      • Should be directly relevant to the existing discussion
    • “fist” or ✊ to mean “I am confused/jargon/clarification required”
    • A simpler version of this could just be putting your hand up to speak next. It’s up to you whether you want to. If you use the hand/finger/fist system, respond to fists first (clarifying jargon), and fingers next (commenting on the existing point).
  • The facilitator of the discussion can raise a hand if they want to speak next and the current speaker has some time to wrap up their points.
    • This is mainly to make sure you have enough time to discuss everything on the agenda.

Week 1: Introductions

This week will focus on outlining how the program will work, answering any questions you have, and setting intentions for the program.

Week 1: Introductions

Week 2: What do you value?

This week, we will consider some of the ethical positions which inspire effective altruism, how a history of changing ethical norms might affect how we want to do good, and how our own values line up with the tools EAs use.

Week 2: What do you value?

Week 3: How do you form beliefs?

This week, we will discuss the project of developing a clearer picture of the world and improving our thinking both for ourselves and our work. We’ll evaluate the argument for why this might be important, look at some reasons to be excited about the project, and look at some next steps.

Week 3: How do you form beliefs?

Week 4, 5, 6, 7: Choose from the following options

For each of these weeks, your group will choose a topic from the below list of options:

Heavy-Tailed Impact
Decision Theory
Using Forecasting Tools
Global Catastrophic Biorisks
Global Health & Development
Nonhuman Animals: Farmed, Wild, and Future Animals
Existential Risk from Artificial Intelligence
Limits of Evidence and Cluelessness
Community Building for Effective Altruism
Something Else

Week 8: Next Steps

This week we will reflect on what we have discussed in the program and make some next steps for once the program is over.

Week 8: Next Steps