QRI February News: Small Conference in Thailand, Future Memeplexes, Cause X

Last month had a couple notable posts by Andres, including Burning Man Theme-Camps of the Year 2029: From Replicator to Rainbow God (1/2) – As Andres describes it, 

What follows is the result of an exercise in considering the questions: “Which novel memes, and meme-plexes, will be alive 10 years from now? And, what new worldviews will have a ‘full-stack’ account of where humanity is at, and where it is headed?”

There are surprisingly few such ‘full-stack’ worldviews around, and fewer still being actively worked on. Andres’s post essentially uses Burning Man as a frame for exploring which interesting ‘living memeplexes’ are out there. 

A core goal for QRI is to build the best such ‘full-stack’ worldview, one that combines the best parts of existing memeplexes with the clarity and rigor of math and the richness of phenomenology, all wrapped in a story that tells humanity what we are, and what we’re here to do.


Andres also organized and wrote up Cause X – What Will the New Shiny Effective Altruist Cause Be? – The idea of “Cause X” comes from Will MacAskill’s keynote at EAG2016. As Will phrased it,

It seems very unlikely if we’ve discovered all of the moral problems today. It seems very unlikely that we are the generation that figured it all out. Given this, what we should be thinking about is: What are the sorts of major moral problems that in several hundred years we’ll look back and think, “Wow, we were barbarians!”? What are the major issues that we haven’t even conceptualized today?

I will refer to this as Cause X.

I think you could argue that one of the most import aims of the effective altruism community is to discover this Cause X; to discover a cause that’s one of the most important moral problems of our time, but that we haven’t even clearly conceptualized yet. Cause X might be an idea that today seems laughable, but will seem obvious in the future just as ideas like animal welfare or existential risk were laughable 200 years ago. Or perhaps Cause X will be something that we are aware of today, but for bad reasons, we deprioritized.

Perhaps the most exciting or interesting way in which the EA community could have a huge positive impact on the world is if we can drive forward moral progress and figure out the problems, the Cause X, that we’re not even aware of today.

The two presentations tied for first place in our informal community vote were Natália Mendonça with “Using smartphones to improve well-being measures in order to aid cause prioritization research” (slides) and an anonymous presenter representing Enthea with “Psychedelic Drug Decriminalization“. We’re currently discussing plans to host another contest along these lines at a larger venue.


Finally, I spent a good chunk of last month co-organizing Meditation and Science Jam 2019 in Koh Phangan, Thailand, along with a couple of amazing Russians, Ivanna Evtukhova and Anastasia Bawari. Here’s a video of the first hour of my talk, and my slides; another post on this to come soon.