Announcing The Most Important Century Writing Prize
Introducing the prize
What if we’re currently living in the most important century ever for humanity?
That’s the bold claim Holden Karnofsky, co-founder of GiveWell and Open Philanthropy, makes in his Most Important Century series.  We are offering $500 to write-ups that meaningfully critique, comment on, or build on the Most Important Century series. By incentivizing people to write up their reactions, we hope to stimulate more discussion about these very big-if-true claims. Such discussions are still young and massively neglected by traditional research institutions, so any high-quality work you produce for this prize could realistically break new ground. What’s more, by demonstrating and training your ability to think clearly about complicated topics, submitting to this prize could help you land future impactful opportunities.
We encourage you to err on the side of submitting to this prize, even if you doubt your ability to contribute. We expect to reward the majority of good-faith attempts. You can also email email@example.com with a rough one-paragraph sketch and we’ll let you know if you’re heading in the right direction.
What a prize-winning submission could look like:
A critique of a claim made in the most important century. For example, identifying an alternative explanation for a phenomenon or commenting on the technical feasibility of predicted developments.
Example: This Can Go On Pt 1 & 2 by Dwarkesh Patel, arguing that, alongside the three key scenarios Holden outlines – Collapse, Stagnation, and Explosion – another scenario is possible: Simmer.
General commentary on the series. What was your overall reaction to the series? What, if anything, did it make you change your mind about, and what are you going to do about it? How does this connect to your own work?
A first pass at strategizing about the implications of the most important century. How can the world prepare for what might come this century? You can identify your own research questions or begin tackling one of Holden’s important, actionable research questions. These questions are probably too big to answer in one submission, but you can still use them for inspiration by suggesting pieces of the answers.
Example: Zombie Universe by Toby Tremlett lays out the case for how important it is to understand whether the digital people Holden theorizes about are actually conscious.
Extensions to the series. What is the Most Important Century series missing that adds important context to this potentially pivotal time?
Example: Zard Wright Weissberg’s post Re: the Social Science section of Holden Karnofsky’s Most Important Century discussing the relationship between digital people and the future of social science.
… Any other writing that meaningfully engages with the most important century series!
If you’re unsure about whether your write-up ideas meet these criteria, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org sketching out some of the submission ideas you’re considering. We’ll aim to provide feedback on your proposed write-ups within a week.
Further prize details:
We’re looking for posts the length of typical blog posts you read online, with a minimum of ~1000 words.
It’s also good practice to use headings and bullet point summaries to increase readability.
No specific citation format is required, but please indicate where you found evidence to support or refute your arguments and, if applicable, any reasons to doubt its quality. We expect the best posts to have clear reasoning transparency.
There is no deadline for this prize. So long as this prize is still posted on super-linear.org, we are still excited to receive new submissions.
We maintain the right to change the prize amount or submission criteria.
We accept multiple submissions, but entrants can only receive the prize once.
Superlinear judges will award $500 to all submissions that meaningfully engage with the prompt in good faith. Again, if you’re unsure about whether to submit to this prize, we’d encourage you to apply.
How to submit: In the Claim Prize form on the Superlinear prize page, share a public link to your write-up (e.g., Google Doc). We’ll get back to you on the status of your submission within two weeks.
Thank you to Drew Spartz for their support in setting up this prize, Nick Whitaker for sharing lessons learned from a similar previous prize, and Minh Nguyen for reviewing the prize write-up.
This prize has not been endorsed by Holden Karnofsky or Open Philanthropy . It is an independent prize.