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Massively Scalable Projects

Some outstanding projects could scale up to productively deploying tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year. We’ll call these massively scalable projects

Tech startups start small and then rapidly scale. We’d like to see that in philanthropy, too. GiveDirectly is a model example in global development. But we’re currently short on massively scalable projects that address our areas of interest.

We want to change that. We’ll try to seed lots of promising new projects, and then help the best ones scale quickly. 

We’re not sure what the best ideas are. But we’re excited about projects with immense ambition—like rapid vaccine development and production, a new university, or massive prizes for reducing existential risk.  

For some examples of projects we’d like to see founded, see our list of project ideas.

Here are some reasons we find massively scalable projects exciting:

  • Massively scalable projects can help us make the most of our resources. In the future, we might productively spend billions of dollars on outstanding projects of this form. Our bottleneck is entrepreneurs starting ambitious new projects. 
  • We won’t know which massively scalable projects will really work, or what their cost-effectiveness will look like, until people try to launch the best projects they can. We could think about this forever on paper, but it would be more productive for people to start actually trying to create these projects. That will help us identify structures that work and give us a better sense of our options.
  • If we end up in a situation where the needs of such projects dramatically outstrip the funding capacity of the longtermist community, that would be a great problem to have! We could rest assured that the funding available would be productively used, we’d have clearer “last dollar” funding bars, and there would be an excellent opportunity to advocate for new donors or governments to fund those projects.

We don’t assume that the best project ideas are always or even typically massively scalable projects. We think the Alignment Research Center is a great example of an outstanding project that isn’t. If you’ve got an awesome idea for a non-scalable project, that’s great—we encourage you to pursue it, and to apply for funding if you need it. We are highlighting the importance of massively scalable longtermist projects because few currently exist. Changing that is an exciting, neglected, and important opportunity.