Friday, December 25, 2009

SIAI Matching Challenge: Choose Your Own Research Project

Between now and 28 Feb. 2010, SIAI is offering a matching-funds challenge up to $100,000. Intriguingly, donors can choose particular grant proposals to fund -- including, e.g., papers on the following topics:
In addition, the page explains that donors contributing at least $1K can contact Anna Salamon to discuss the possibility of a new research topic. So, utilitarians: If you're interested in donating and have a project in mind, do contact Anna and see what can be done. SIAI might, for instance, fund an exploration of the types of suffering computations we decide to care about. Or perhaps a paper assimilating research on some aspect of mathematics, physics, computer science, economics, psychology, or cognitive science that is crucially important to know about when trying to reduce large-scale suffering.

Each paper has an associated expected cost figure, like this one for the anthropics article:
Total budget: $5,960, including:
  • Conference fees, air travel, motel: $1,400
  • Costs for researcher time: $4,560
How research costs are estimated:
  • Person-months for research and writing: 1.9 (obtained by taking our standard estimate[1] of 1.25 person-months per conference paper and multiplying by 1.5, since this paper requires thinking through and aggregating many different topics).
  • Dollars required to support one skilled full time researcher-month[2]: $2,400


  1. Very interesting, Alan. I think it would be interesting to propose a new anti-speciesist research project.

  2. For example, it would can be proposed a research project about the consequences of AI in the suffering of farmed and wild animals.

  3. Compared to the possibility of eternity the actual suffering on earth seems quite neglectable to me.
    In my opinion, AIs shall help us to find out what consciousness is if it is eternal (not depending on biological life) and how we could prevent them from suffering (from a series of bad rebirths our even from a sort of hell) destroy it or prevent the existence of every feeling consciousness.

  4. Daniel, I like your project idea. In fact, the basis of a series of papers that I'm currently funding through a donation to SIAI basically *is* that question, though slightly modified to make the topic also interesting to people slightly less concerned with wild animals specifically. (I'd say only wild animals matter here, not farmed animals -- surely an AI would do away with factory farming?) The papers aren't yet completed, but I'll definitely publicize them when they are.

    Anonymous, interestingly your point is similar to one I mention in my own "Thoughts on Friendly AI" in the paragraph that begins "2. Hell and Numbers of Births," referring to a separate essay with that name. Indeed, that would be a benefit of a friendly AI and a reason that even Pascalian wagerers afraid of eternal torment probably ought to endorse SIAI's efforts.