The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread – February 2016


Open thread
The Monthly EA Newsletter – February 2016 Edition

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Hey all,

We hope 2016 has been treating you well so far.

Last week’s announcement that the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged £3 billion to help end malaria deaths will hopefully be a sign of many more altruistic endeavours to come!

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. 

The Team
Articles and Community Posts
What did EAs change their mind about in 2015? Find out in this Facebook discussion.

If you want to have some fun with stretching and testing your intuitions, you might enjoy this comic on the tricky moral dilemmas surrounding self-driving cars.

Kahneman, Tversky and the World Bank: Sebastian Roing writes about the promise of low-cost interventions at the intersection of behavioral economics and international development.

See how malaria eradication can induce economic growth, as James Snowden explains how the benefit of fighting this disease extends beyond the number of deaths averted.

Holden Karnofsky compares the value of a smaller number of rigorous studies to a bigger number of flawed studies.

Kieran Grieg provides a run-down on how to conduct effective studies relating to animal advocacy.

What are the limits to ethical offsetting and earning to give? Rob Wiblin looks at just how bad it is to be a CEO in the tobacco industry. Here is a response to him on the EA Forum.
Updates from EA Organizations
80,000 Hours

80k grew 50% over the last month with their impact-adjusted significant plan changes. They also developed a new afternoon-long career workshop, which they gave to 130 people in Cambridge. They received great feedback, including: “this is the best workshop I’ve been to so far” and “this was the first career event I’ve been to I haven’t hated”.

Animal Charity Evaluators

ACE released their annual Year in Review. Of note, money moved increased from at least $141,000 in 2014 to at least $828,000 in 2015. ACE als plans to host an academic conference at Princeton in late 2016.

Charity Entrepreneurship

The Charity Entrepreneurship team is now in India: read their reflections on their first slum visit, the broad phases of their project and give feedback on their research process.

Effective Altruism Foundation

Adriano Mannino, President of EAF, recently gave a comprehensive German-languageintroductory talk on EA.


GiveWell published an update on its web traffic and money moved. As of late January 2016, GiveWell has now tracked more than $100 million in money moved to its recommended charities.

Giving What We Can

This New Year a group of people from around the world coordinated to take the pledge or sign up to Try Giving as part of the Giving What We Can Pledge Event. It was a great success: around 80 people joined and together they pledged more than $17 million.

Local Effective Altruism Network

LEAN’s latest employee, Georgie Mallett, recently joined the team in Vancouver. They seeded 34 new EA groups recently, from Capilano University to South Korea – see if there’s a new group near you.
Other Announcements

Apply to the Pareto Fellowship by Feb. 14, a new summer program from the Centre for Effective Altriusm, which includes training and project work for three months in the San Francisco Bay Area.

If you are interested in hosting an EA Global X conference this year but missed the deadline or don’t feel ready to apply yet, send a quick email to

The Good Technology Project was recently announced. Their goal is to influence talented people within technology to work on higher-impact projects. They are looking for feedback as well as people who might want to get involved.
Job Postings

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), a charity recommended by both GiveWell and Giving What We Can, is hiring a full-time Communications & Development Manager. The application deadline is 16 Feb.
Timeless Classics

“Imagine you are setting out on a dangerous expedition through the Arctic on a limited budget.” What essentials do you take? Discover what that has to do with effective altruism in the classic “Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others…”.
Go forth and do the most good!

Let us know how you liked this edition and how we can improve further.

See you again on March 3!

Georgie, Michał, Pascal and Sören
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team

The Effective Altruism Newsletter is a joint project between the Centre for Effective Altruism, theEffective Altruism Hub and .impact

9 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:16 PM
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I'm new to the EA Forum. It was suggested to me that I crosspost this LessWrong post criticizing Jeff Kaufman's speech at EA Global 2015 entitled 'Why Global Poverty?' on the EA forum, but I need 5 karma to make my first post.

EDIT: Here it is.

"And I would argue that any altruist is doing the same thing when they have to choose between causes before they can make observations. There are a million other things that the founders of the Against Malaria Foundation could have done, but they took the risk of riding on distributing bed nets, even though they had yet to see it actually work."

This point should be rewritten, I think. I'm not sure what the "it" here you're talking about actually is.

Sorry about the confusion, I mean to say that even though the Against Malaria Foundation observes evidence of the effectiveness of its interventions all of the time, and this is good, the founders of the Against Malaria Foundation had to choose an initial action before they had made any observations about the effectiveness of their interventions. Presumably, there was some first village or region of trial subjects that first empirically demonstrated the effectiveness of durable, insecticidal bednets. But before this first experiment, the AMF also presumably had to rely merely on correct reasoning without corroborative observations to support their arguments. Nonetheless, their reasoning was correct. Experiment is a way to increase our confidence in our reasoning, and it is good to use it when it's available, but we can have confidence at times without it. I use these points to argue that people successfully reason without being able to test the effectiveness of their actions all of the time, and that they often have to.

The more general point is that people often use a very simple heuristic to decide whether or not something academic is worthy of interest: Is it based on evidence and empirical testing? 'Evidence-based medicine' is synonymous with 'safe, useful medicine,' depending on who you ask. Things are bad if they are not based on evidence. But in the case of existential risk interventions, it is a property of the situation that we cannot empirically test the effectiveness of our interventions. It is thus necessary to reason without conducting empirical tests. This is a reason to take the problem more seriously, for its difficulty, as opposed to the reaction of some others, which is that the 'lack of evidence-based methods' is some sort of point against trying to solve the problem anyway.

And in the case of some risks, like AI, it is actually dangerous to conduct empirical testing. It's plausible that sufficiently intelligent unsafe AIs would mimic safe AIs until they gain a decisive strategic advantage. See Bostrom's 'treacherous turn' for more on this.

This is an interesting discussion, people listing high earning careers which're comparatively easy to get:

Or rather: people failing to list high earning careers that are comparatively easy to get.

I think popularizing earning-to-give among persons who already are in high-income professions or career trajectories is a very good strategy. But as a career advice for young people interested in EA, it seems to be of rather limited utility.

What luck have the big EA charities (GiveWell and CEA come to mind as the obvious candidates) had with building up a non-EA donor base? (By which I mean one which wouldn't otherwise donate to what'd generally be considered EA picks, like GiveWell recommendations, meta charities, etc.)


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Is there an old Facebook or Forum thread where people describe how many people they've 'recruited' to EA (to some extent, and in some shape or form)?