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Deputy Director of Wild Animal Initiative


Thank you so much! I've been wondering about exactly this... but wasn't productive enough to research it yet. 😅

I think more speculative fiction about wild animal welfare would be great! Thank you!


Here's a related thought, but ignore it if it deters you from writing something soon:

When I talk to people who are skeptical of or opposed to wild animal welfare work (context: I work at Wild Animal Initiative), they're more likely to cite practical concerns about interventions (e.g., "reducing predator populations will cause harmful trophic cascades") than they are to cite purely ethical disagreements (e.g., "we should never violate autonomy, even to improve welfare"). There's a chance that speculative fiction could add to that problem, especially if multiple pieces repeat the same tropes. So my ideal medium-term goal would be a body of speculative fiction (ideally a single anthology) that portrays a wide range of futures to reflect the huge uncertainty we currently have about what the biggest problems are and how to solve them. 

If it's interesting and motivating for you, perhaps you could imagine your post as an early version of one of the pieces in that anthology. But if adding considerations slows you down, ignore this; anything you write will probably be helpful.

I work in fundraising but don't have any experience with it outside EA; I'd be really interested in reading this piece. 

Your thesis also happens to parallel one of the few conversations I've had about TBP: a non-EA friend was talking about what she didn't like about EA; she espoused TBP instead; I asked her a bunch of questions and was generally confused because what she described sounded very similar to how lots of EA funding works.

I'm considering writing about my personal journey to working on wild animal welfare, which was unusually pinbally: loving animals --> learning survival skills and slaughtering a bunch of poultry --> interested in things like rewilding --> working to end factory farming --> working on wild animal welfare at Wild Animal Initiative.

People often find this story interesting when I tell it, and it might help engage or persuade some people (e.g. by demonstrating that I've seriously considered other philosophies toward nature).

But my big hangup is I don't really know who the audience for this piece would be, or what exactly I want to achieve with it. That could have a big effect on which arguments I make, what kind of language I use, and how much detail I go into. (Having an altruistic theory of change is also essential to feeling okay with spending this much time gazing into my navel.)

I'd welcome any thoughts on whether/how to proceed!

Thanks for this post, Max!


tl;dr: Lemme know if you have ideas for approaches to animal-inclusive AI that would also rank among the most promising ways to reduce human extinction risk from AI. I think they probably don't be exist, but it'd be wicked cool if they did.


Most EAs working on AI safety are primarily interested in reducing the risk of human extinction. I agree that this is of astronomical importance, especially when you consider all the wild animal suffering that would continue in our absence.

Many things that would move us toward animal-inclusive AI would also help move us away from extinction risks. But I suspect the majority of those things, while helpful, would not be among the most helpful ways to reduce extinction risk. In other words, we should be wary suspicious convergence; "what is best for one thing is usually not the best for something else."

I'm working on plans to do more to support a rigorous search for approaches to animal-inclusive AI (or approaches to advancing wild animal welfare science broadly) that would also rank among the most promising ways to reduce human extinction risk from AI. In the meantime, I'd encourage anyone interested in the broader subject to consider this narrower subset, and to reach out to me if they're excited to work on it more (

To be clear, I also think animal-inclusive AI is worth pursuing for its own sake (i.e., working on animal-inclusive AI seems likely to be among the most impactful things you can do to make the world a better place in the set of scenarios where humans don't go extinct), and I'd be excited to see work on most of the approaches discussed above. In those cases -- especially when building coalitions with people who might have different priorities -- I think it's useful to be transparent about the fact that what we're doing is important, but we don't think it's one of the most promising ways to avoid human extinction.

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective! That’s basically what I’ve been doing so far.

But I’ve started feeling the urge often enough that each appreciation donation makes me worried about my overall approach to appreciation donations — which seriously distracts from the warm fuzzies I was trying to buy in the first place.

I would think if an organization had operational constraints, it would still have room for more funding, just the funding would be spent on expanding operations.

Great point!

tl;dr: I don't think "slow and steady" growth is a problem, only "slow and unsteady" growth.

speed of hiring - an organization can only spend money to hire and expand so quickly and maybe they are already saturated

Actually,  I don't think expansion speed alone should be considered a factor in room for more funding. If there are no mission constraints or relative timing constraints, should it matter to me when the organization spends my money? If not, why not donate now so they'll have more to use once they are no longer saturated?

I was trying to define operational constraints more narrowly, to include only the kind of growth that actually threatens the effectiveness of the org. I'm not sure exactly what this would look like. Perhaps if an org currently has promising programs, but is growing in a way that I think will create problems for them, then I would worry they won't be effective by the time they are no longer saturated.

Hi Max!

I may not have much to add, because I know you've thought a ton about this and I'm obviously not on the AWF panel. But for what it's worth, here's how I would rate those categories, in descending order of expected impact:

  1. Research to inform future interventions
  2. Advocacy to raise concern about the subject
  3. Current interventions to improve wild animal welfare

Most of all, I think we should be measuring projects by how they contribute to the formation of a movement around wild animal welfare. That points in a slightly different direction than if we just think about the direct impact of a particular project. For example:

  1. Research: Developing methods or concepts might catalyze further research better than simply developing technologies or species-specific knowledge.
  2. Advocacy: Appealing to conservation organizations ("grasstops") might build coalitions quicker than appealing to the general public ("grassroots").
  3. Current interventions: Conceptually simple interventions on somewhat likable species (e.g., rat contraception) might attract more resources to the cause than counterintuitive interventions on alien species (e.g., humane insecticides), even if the latter would have more impact in the short term.

Feel free to reach out if you want to bounce around ideas!

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