Summary

Whether invertebrates have a capacity for valenced experience is still uncertain. Given that uncertainty, we argue that supporting the cause of invertebrate welfare means, at present, promoting additional research. To that end, we explore and outline key research questions in two areas: (i) invertebrate sentience and (ii) philosophical research into consciousness. Regarding the first, we propose further research on those features which, according to expert agreement, seem to be necessary for consciousness (e.g., nociceptors and centralized information-processing structures). We also su

Hi Tobias!

Thanks again for sharing your views. Regarding the role of further research, first, we should keep in mind that the scientific literature in invertebrate sentience is still scarce, and the extent to which invertebrates have been investigated varies. Thus, there are some particular species about which there is a comparatively great deal of knowledge (e.g., fruit flies). But for several other taxa, potentially consciousness-indicating features have not been investigated at all. It is unknown if many invertebrate taxa display particular anatomical, ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Introduction

Between May 2018 and June 2019 Rethink Priorities completed a large project on the subject of invertebrate sentience.[1] We investigated the best methodology to approach the question, outlined some philosophical difficulties inherent in the project, described the features most relevant to invertebrate sentience, compiled the extant scientific literature on the topic, summarized our results, and ultimately produced an invertebrate welfare cause profile. We are currently in the process of identifying concrete interventions to improve invertebrate wellbeing, with a report on the welf

How should we interpret ranges of probabilities here?

We can talk about confidence (credence) intervals for frequencies for the population we're sampling from for polls and surveys. For species (or individuals) with characteristics of interest (possibly a feature or its absence) , we could describe our probability distribution over the fraction of them that are sentient.

Another approach might be to try to quantify the sensitivity to new information, e.g. if we also observed another given capacity (or its absence), how much would our es... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

In 2019, GiveDirectly began making payments to approximately 10,000 refugee households (65,000 people) in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Uganda, along with 5,000 host community households in the surrounding area. Over the course of two years, GiveDirectly is working alongside independent researchers to conduct a randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of cash transfers in the unique context of a refugee settlement.

About 30% of GiveDirectly staff on the GiveDirectly Kiryandongo refugee team are refugees themselves. One of the field officers who was hired from the Kiryandongo se

Interesting! This section especially caught my eye, because it represents so many different forms of development all coming together to create (relative) prosperity:

Over my lifetime in the settlement, I have witnessed various changes. Medical health has tremendously improved. Now a lot can be done at the settlement health center compared to before. Many water points have been constructed and some of the boreholes have been changed to taps. Some people even have taps in their compounds. The education system has improved. Qualified teachers are being hired a

... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

My top takeaways from the post:

• As in so many other situations that involve advice, your mileage may vary.
• When an organization says something, the background behind that statement is often complicated and involves compromise between many different opinions.
• Check publication dates when you read things! (I've been burned by this plenty of times, even on GiveWell, which is unusually good about updating their pages to note when they've gone out of date.)

The post

We’ve found that readers sometimes interpret or apply our advice in ways we didn’t anticipate and wouldn’t exactly recommend. That’s hard t

Cross-posted from the Charity Entrepreneurship blog.

Acknowledgements. I’d like to thank Spencer Greenberg for both inspiring the original idea with Clearer Thinking’s Belief Challenger tool and for coming up with a much better name for the concept than my original “steelmanning back and forth”.

I have a tool for thinking I call “steelman solitaire” that I have found comes to much better conclusions than doing “free-style” thinking, so I thought I should share it with more people. In summary, it consists of arguing with yourself in ... (Read more)

Thanks for posting. I've been using this at work today and it's been working very well.

As part of my role as a teacher in a sixth-form college for gifted students, I have the option of requesting books be bought for the library. I do some EA outreach as part of my job (more details here, I'm "Alex"), but am primarily interested here in books that people feel might provide a nudge in an EA direction to students who haven't otherwise engaged with effective altruism. As well as obtaining recommended books for my own school's library, I am exploring the possibility of donating highly recommended books to the libraries of other very high performing sixth form... (Read more)

The other day was my mother's birthday and, not knowing what to buy her, I suddenly remembered this thread and comment, and decided to buy her Rosling's excellent book, which had conveniently just been translated into Spanish.

True, my mother is not a teenager (I'm not that young), but as you point out the book makes a great gift for anyone.

1Answer by Nathan Young11h Stories of people with very different experiences to theirs. I think people can usually do with more empathy. Stories are a great way to open ourselves to the lives of others. For me, I was moved by The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which is written by person with locked in syndrome (like Stephen Hawking had).
5Nathan Young11h Worth noting that Thinking Fast and Slows has some issues in the replication crisis (mainly around priming). Eg. this article here. https://jasoncollins.blog/2016/06/29/re-reading-kahnemans-thinking-fast-and-slow/ [https://jasoncollins.blog/2016/06/29/re-reading-kahnemans-thinking-fast-and-slow/]

Does this already happen? If not, should it? And with which metrics? If it already happens, what metrics are used to assess the health and changes in health of the EA community?

I just want to say that this is exactly what I want the question feature to be used for. Strong upvoted. Very interested in seeing answers!

10Answer by Larks15h Interesting question. I think there are essentially two different angles here: how good is the EA community at achieving its stated purpose, and how healthy are the members. For the first one, how many people are donating at least 10% of their labour income is an obvious test. The extent to which EA research breaks new ground, vs going round in circles, would be another. For the second presumably many standard measures of social dysfunction would be relevant - e.g. depression, crime, drug addiction, or unemployment. Conversely, we would also care about positive indicators, like professional success, having children, good family relationships, etc. However, you would presumably want to think about selection effects (does EA attract healthy people) vs treatment effects (does EA make people healthy). If we (hypothetically) made some people so depressed they rapidly drop out, our depression stats could look good, despite this being clearly bad! Another issue is judging whether someone is a member of the community. A survey could be unrepresentative if it doesn't reach enough people - or if it reaches only peripherally attached people.
1ofer12h Some more ideas for metrics that might be useful for tracking 'the health of the EA community' (not sure whether they fit in the first category): How much runway do EA orgs have? How diverse is the 'EA funding portfolio'?

Given the plausibility of longtermism, many effective altruists are interested in identifying tractable ways to shape the very long-term future for the better. One neglected and potentially tractable way to vastly improve the value of the long-term future is by identifying future-beneficial political and economic institutions and policies and acting to increase the probability of their implementation at various levels of political organization. Will MacAskill recently advocated age-weighted voting as one such strategy for better-aligning the interests of governments with the interests of futur... (Read more)

You might be interested in this (courtesy of Gwern):

The Corporate Governance of Benedictine Abbeys: What can Stock Corporations Learn from Monasteries?
The corporate governance structure of monasteries is analyzed to derive new insights into solving agency problems of modern corporations. In the long history of monasteries, some abbots and monks lined their own pockets and monasteries were undisciplined. Monasteries developed special systems to check these excesses and therefore were able to survive for centuries. These features are studied from an eco
... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post
4Larks11h Every financial security requires a matching liability. Who or what owes the money at maturity? If it's funded out of general taxation it's a vote on whether non-holders should pay money to the holders. Holders are incentivized to give high numbers, non-holders are incentivized to give low numbers, and accurate retrospective judgements don't seem to be relevant at all. My guess is that the price falls rapidly to zero, like failed crypto schemes, though the game theory is not totally clear.
3Larks11h Hereditary Rule Increasing the power of hereditary rulers (Monarchs, House of Lords) and introducing them in other places (e.g. making Senates hereditary and replacing Presidents with Monarchs) to reduce short-term incentives by extending time in government office, and taking advantage of the high level of parent-child altruism to extend this beyond an individual ruler's lifespan.

Disclosure: This analysis is mine alone, and does not reflect the belief of any individuals or organizations I’m affiliated with. To protect my anonymity I’m not providing a full history of my experiences with the programs I’ve analyzed, but readers can assume that I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to get funding through one or more of the channels discussed below and could potentially benefit from changes to these grantmaking processes.

Most Effective Altruists (myself included) would agree that the stronger the EA community is, the more good it will be able to accompl... (Read more)

15Habryka8h Just as a more transparent reference, this refers to a grant to me and the LessWrong team to build the new LessWrong and EA Forum platforms. It's correct that we are located in the Bay Area, but importantly LessWrong and the EA Forum itself are not specific to a geographic location, and I actually think of them as key parts of having more distributed community-building infrastructure. It's also important because there has been very little investment in Bay-Area EA community building in the past few years, even though it is one of the biggest EA hubs, and I don't want people to think this grant helped much with that. We do sometimes run events, but we are first and foremost an online-community building organization. I also find it important to point out that I was the director of strategy for CEA US, not all of CEA. At the time I was at CEA the organization was much less integrated and I think CEA at the time was better modeled as two organizations, both of which were much smaller than CEA is now.

Thanks for providing these additional details. I’ve edited OP to reflect that your role was with CEA US, not CEA as a whole.

It's also important because there has been very little investment in Bay-Area EA community building in the past few years, even though it is one of the biggest EA hubs, and I don't want people to think this grant helped much with that.

Great point. I was surprised at how few resources went to CB efforts in the Bay Area relative to those in Oxbridge/London. Seems like adding a Bay Area based manager to the Meta Fund co... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

7Kerry_Vaughan9h "Business plans" aren't really a part of VC evaluations as far as I am aware. It certainly wasn't a part of YC's evaluation process. Eye-popping metrics that show growth are relevant as are the past experiencers of the founders, but VCs don't seem to rely much on abstract plans for what one intends to do as a component of evaluations.
AI policy careers in the EU

This article[1] is compiled from interviews and conversations I’ve had with people working in the EU, national governments, and other relevant institutions. I don't have any personal experience in the field.

My goal here is to (partly) adapt Niel Bowerman’s 80.000 Hours guide to US AI policy careers to an EU context, especially the sections ‘where to aim long term’ and ‘key routes in’. I hope this document can be useful for informing / orienting the early-stage career decisions of Europeans interested in policy careers. I'm framing everything around AI policy, but much of the content applies to

Makes sense―I agree that the base value of becoming an MEP seems really good.

I'm going to vote, I guess I'll have to spend a reasonable amount of time deciding who to vote for. I guess someone has already done this work, where would you look for it?

Effective Altruism Community Building Grants is a project run by the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) which made its first round of grants in 2018. It provides grants to individuals and groups doing local effective altruism community building, which typically range from $5,000 to$100,000. The programme has a particular emphasis on funding groups that aim to transition from being run by volunteers to being run by full-time, paid organisers.

Many of the initial grants we made in 2018 ended recently and we've just finished assessing applications for renewed funding for these grants. Over... (Read more)

Hi Harri, I have two questions for you.

We think that there is a large amount of variance in the impact of individual grants that we’ve made.

What makes you believe this? What kind of criteria are used to evaluate and compare the impact of individual grants?

After evaluating the grants made over the course of 2018 we also think that we now have a better understanding of which kinds of grantmaking opportunities will be most impactful.

Could you elaborate on this? Which kinds of opportunities do you think will be most impactful? This seems highly valuab... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

I frequently donate to GiveWell and agree with their philosophy on how to choose who to donate to. I am starting a job next month that will match my donation to U.S. universities 3:1 up to $7500 (I donate$7.5K, they donate 22.5K). I am quite skeptical of universities effectiveness in alleviating human suffering (in some cases, i think they can increase suffering). Anyways, I am wondering given the 3:1 corporate matching, is it worthwhile to donate to a university (or specific program at a university) at all. If so, which university/program would be best (or how would I find the best programs)... (Read more) Some EA-ish organisations are legally part of universities. For example, FHI is part of Oxford, and CHAI is part of UC Berkeley. In both cases when I donated to these organisations in the past it was legally a restricted donation to the university, to my recollection. I assume GPI is also part of Oxford. (To be clear, I am not arguing that you should give to these two specific organisations). There is a strong argument that many of the most important, high-value interventions cannot be robustly quantified. For example, corruption reduction efforts and other policy change to increase long-term economic growth, therefore saving lives and reducing suffering, are high-importance, plausibly tractable, and relatively neglected areas. Using the ITN framework, or almost any other expected-value prioritization approach, this means they should be prioritized highly. I want to briefly outline and steelman the counterargument, that these have very low expected value compared to the best short-... (Read more) As a small note, we might get more precise estimates of the effects of a program by predicting magnitudes rather than whether something will replicate (which is what we're doing with the Social Science Prediction Platform). That said, I think a lot of work needs to be done before we can have trust in predictions, and there will always be a gap between how comfortable we are extrapolating to other things we could study vs. "unquantifiable" interventions. (There's an analogy to external validity here, where you can do more if you can assu... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post 2Milan_Griffes16h Pretty sure that's not right, at least for Turing's work on Enigma [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing#Hut_8_and_the_naval_Enigma]: "Turing decided to tackle the particularly difficult problem of German naval Enigma [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptanalysis_of_the_Enigma#German_naval_Enigma] 'because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it to myself'." What about AI alignment work circa 2010? Quick examples from the present day: preparing for risks from nanotechnology; working on geoengineering [https://www.openphilanthropy.org/research/cause-reports/geoengineering] safety In December, I (Nicole Ross) joined CEA to run the EA Grants program, which gives relatively small grants (usually under60,000 per grant) to individuals and start-up projects within EA cause areas. Before joining CEA, I worked at the Open Philanthropy Project and GiveWell doing both research and grants operations.

When I joined CEA, the EA Grants program had been running since 2017. Upon my initial review, it had a mixed track record. Some grants seemed quite exciting, some seemed promising, others lacked the information I needed to make an impact judgment, and others raised some concer... (Read more)

I think the option of having (a possible renamed) EA Grants as one option in EA funds is interesting. It could preserve almost all of the benefits (one extra independent grantmaker picking different kinds of targets) while reducing maybe half the overhead, and clarifying the difference between EA Grants and EA Funds.

2Milan_Griffes16h Got it. What could staff capacity trade off for here that feels higher priority?

Participants

• Rohin Shah — PhD student at the Center for Human-Compatible AI, UC Berkeley
• Asya Bergal – AI Impacts
• Robert Long – AI Impacts
• Sara Haxhia — Independent researcher

Summary

We spoke with Rohin Shah on August 6, 2019. Here is a brief summary of that conversation:

• Before taking into account other researchers’ opinions, Shah guesses an extremely rough~90% chance that even without any additional intervention from current longtermists, advanced AI systems will not cause human extinction by adversarially optimizing against humans. He gives the following reasons, ordered by how heavily they weigh
Chomsky's universal grammar: There's not enough language data for children to learn languages in the absence of inductive biases.

I think there's more recent work in computational linguistics that challenges this. Unfortunately I can't summarize it since I only took an overview course a long time ago. I've been wondering whether I should read up on language evolution at some point. Mostly because it seems really interesting, but also because it's a field I haven't seen being discussed in EA circles, and it seems potentiall... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.

You can also see last month's updates, or a repository of past newsletters (including past organization updates).