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EA - Nick Bostrom should step down as Director of FHI by BostromAnonAccount

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Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Nick Bostrom should step down as Director of FHI, published by BostromAnonAccount on March 4, 2023 on The Effective Altruism Forum. Nick Bostrom should step down as Director of FHI. He should move into a role as a Senior Research Fellow at FHI, and remain a Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. I don't seek to minimize his intellectual contribution. His seminal 2002 paper on existential risk launched a new sub-field of existential risk research (building on many others). The 2008 book on Global Catastrophic Risks he co-edited was an important part of bringing together this early field. 2014’s Superintelligence put AI risk squarely onto the agenda. And he has made other contributions across philosophy from human enhancement to the simulation hypothesis. I'm not denying that. I'm not seeking to cancel him and prevent him from writing further papers and books. In fact, I want him to spend more time on that. But I don’t think he’s been a particularly good Director of FHI. These difficulties are demonstrated by and reinforced by his Apology. I think he should step down for the good of FHI and the field. This post has some hard truths and may be uncomfortable reading, but FHI and the field are more important than that discomfort. Pre-existing issues Bostrom was already struggling as Director. In the past decade, he’s churned through 5-10 administrators, due to his persistent micromanagement. He discouraged investment in the relationship with the University and sought to get around/streamline/reduce the bureaucracy involved with being part of the University. All of this contributed to the breakdown of the relationship with the Philosophy Faculty (which FHI is a part of). This led the Faculty to impose a hiring freeze a few years ago, preventing FHI from hiring more people until they had resolved administrative problems. Until then, FHI could rely on a constant churn of new people to replace the people burnt out and/or moving on. The hiring freeze stopped the churn. The hiring freeze also contributed in part to the end of the Research Scholars Program and Cotton-Barratt’s resignation from FHI. It also contributed in part to the switch of almost all of the AI Governance Research Group to the Center for the Governance of AI. Apology Then in January 2023, Bostrom posted an Apology for an Old Email. In my personal opinion, this statement demonstrated his lack of aptitude and lack of concern for his important role. These are sensitive topics that need to be handled with care. But the Apology had a glib tone, reused the original racial slur, seemed to indicate he was still open to discredited ‘race science’ hypotheses, and had an irrelevant digression on eugenics. I personally think these are disqualifying views for someone in his position as Director. But also, any of these issues would presumably have been flagged by colleagues or a communications professional. It appears he didn't check this major statement with anyone or seek feedback. Being Director of a major research center in an important but controversial field requires care, tact, leadership and attention to downside risks. The Apology failed to demonstrate that. The Apology has had the effect of complicating many important relationships for FHI: with the University, with staff, with funders and with collaborators. Bostrom will now struggle even more to lead the center. First, University. The Faculty was already concerned, and Oxford University is now investigating. Oxford University released a statement to The Daily Beast: “The University and Faculty of Philosophy is currently investigating the matter but condemns in the strongest terms possible the views this particular academic expressed in his communications. Neither the content nor language are in line with our strong commitment to diversity and equality.” B...