These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
This month, Habiba Islam joined the 80,000 Hours advising team and started doing her first one-on-one career advice sessions.
Rob Wiblin had the chance to interview Marc Lipsitch — one of the top epidemiologists in the world — and asked whether we’re winning or losing against COVID-19.
80,000 Hours also released two other podcasts:
- Arden Koehler interviewed Danny Hernandez (forecasting and the drivers of AI progress)
- Keiran Harris talked with A.J. Jacobs (radical honesty, following the whole Bible, and reframing global problems as puzzles).
Finally, they released the fifteenth and final installment in their series of posts with anonymous answers and a page containing the complete collection of posts with anonymous answers. The page includes an audio version of some highlights from the project.
Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters
ALLFED is creating a Food Systems Handbook together with the team behind the Coronavirus Tech Handbook. This project aims to gather global expertise to find solutions to the food crisis. More information on the project, including a call to action, can be found here.
This month, Anima International’s staff in Lithuania welcomed major retailer Maxima’s announcement that they will stop selling live fish by 2021. This will mean a reduction in the suffering of approximately 240,000 fish per year.
In Estonia, a petition to ban fur farming, submitted by Nähtamatud Loomad, was discussed in Parliament. The discussion was not voted down, and will continue once Parliament returns after the summer break.
Open Cages, Anima International’s UK-based organisation, launched the #BanFactoryFarms campaign, urging the UK government to phase out factory farming due to welfare and public safety concerns. The campaign highlights the potential for future zoonotic diseases (akin to COVID-19) to emerge from intensive farming.
Animal Advocacy Careers
Animal Advocacy Careers is a new not-for-profit focused on addressing talent bottlenecks and helping advocates maximise their impact in effective animal advocacy organisations.
So far this year, they have launched two services. One targets individuals in existing effective animal advocacy organisations, providing training for managers and leaders in the farmed animal movement. The second will focus on helping individuals to plan their careers and use their skills to effectively help the animal movement.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators published an update from their new research managers, as well as an interview with Lynette Bye (founder of EA Coaching), who shares tips for maintaining productivity while working from home. They also published their 2019 Year in Review, in which they outline the progress they made last year, including influencing $8.9 million in donations to effective charities. Finally, they made a statement highlighting their solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
They conducted an interview with photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, the second in their Zoom series featuring academics and animal advocates. Future interviewees will include David Olivier and Mark Bernstein.
They also gave webinars in both India and Brazil to introduce speciesism and wild animal suffering to new audiences.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
PhD student Vael Gates and Professors Anca Dragan and Tom Griffiths published “How to Be Helpful to Multiple People at Once” in the journal Cognitive Science. The authors consider the problem of deciding how to assist multiple recipients with very different preferences. They develop a quantitative model of what people consider desirable behavior, characterizing participants’ preferences by inferring which combination of “metrics” (maximax, maxsum, maximin, or inequality aversion) best explain participants’ decisions in a drink‐choosing task. The paper helps constrain the space of desirable behavior in both leaders and assistive artificial intelligence systems.
Center on Long-Term Risk
The Center on Long-Term Risk will welcome nine research fellows over the summer. They made a grant to Johannes Treutlein for his graduate studies in computer science in Toronto. During his degree, he will focus on multi-agent reinforcement learning. Lukas Gloor published three more EA Forum posts in his sequence on metaethics (#3, #4, #5).
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER researchers were featured in a front-page story in The Economist. They submitted a response to the EU White Paper on AI, supporting mandatory conformity assessments for high-risk AI applications, carried out by independent testing centres. Jess Whittlestone’s paper in Nature Machine Intelligence, “AI in a Crisis Needs Ethics with Urgency,” argues that AI can help the COVID-19 response, but rapidly scaling up the use of AI carries its own risks. Luke Kemp spoke with David Wallace-Wells, Zeke Hausfather, and Kate Guy on the existential risk of climate change (video).
About the course
Every charity makes a huge number of decisions, from large-scale multi-year plans to small updates based on ongoing measurement and evaluation. This course covers key topics such as:
- CE’s 2020 top charity interventions, selected after months of research
- Methods for making better decisions — from theory to practice
- Problem-solving techniques
- Task management and productivity
- Cost-effectiveness analysis
Each lesson consists of:
- Chapters from the Charity Entrepreneurship handbook, How to Start a High-impact Nonprofit
- Video lectures
- Interactive quizzes
- Participants’ discussions
Researchers from the Future of Humanity Institute established EpiFor (EpidemicForecasting.org) in March to combine epidemiological modeling and judgmental forecasting (a la Dan Gardner and Philip Tetlock’s book Superforecasting) about COVID-19.
Their recently posted preprint contains the largest data-driven study to date of the impact of various non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 transmission. An online calculator allows decision-makers to apply and adapt the results.
COVID-19 vaccine trials can fail if they are based on erroneous predictions about future events; To hedge against this possibility, EpiFor advised Johnson & Johnson on the selection of trial sites for an upcoming trial.
They are now requesting help from the community to make contact with other pharma teams planning phase III trials of a COVID-19 vaccine. Please email email@example.com.
Previously, EpiFor hosted country-level outbreak scenario forecasts online, produced in-depth reports for two Pakistani provinces, and advised a number of think-tanks and NGOs in India, Nepal, and the Central African Republic. EpiFor has now paused most pro-bono work based on judgment-driven forecasting due to limited funds.
Faunalytics published the newest addition to their Fundamentals series: Zoonoses Fundamentals. This fully-sourced, visually engaging resource provides an overview of where zoonoses come from, why they occur, and how we can live more harmoniously with non-human animals to stop zoonoses before they start.
Their newest blog post, “Deaths Per Calorie & Effective Advocacy: A Case For Standardization,” examines the history and increasing use of deaths-per-calorie measurements, and how effective animal advocates can make such measurements even more useful.
They've also added several new study summaries to their research library on topics including barriers to vegan/vegetarian diets, factors that influence perceptions of farmed animals, institutional attitudes toward wild animal suffering, fish memory, and invertebrate welfare.
Fish Welfare Initiative
Fish Welfare Initiative has opened a position for a Fish Welfare Scoping Contractor. This temporary position could be a good fit for an early-career person who is looking to increase their involvement in the EA space, and who lives in India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, or Bangladesh. They are also still hiring for a Director of Country Operations in those same countries.
Their latest research piece, “Defining Welfare for Fish,” considers how to best define fish welfare. It may be interesting to those with animal welfare science or philosophical backgrounds.
Lastly, for those interested in collaborating on fish welfare projects, FWI created a Mendeley group to better share relevant research.
Future of Humanity Institute
Carolyn Ashurst, Carina Prunkl, and others published a guide for machine learning researchers on how to write an impact statement for papers submitted to NeurIPS (one of the leading artificial intelligence/machine learning conferences).
A team led by Stefan Torges submitted comments on the European Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence.
Cassidy Nelson, an FHI Research Scholar, was made Acting Co-Lead of FHI’s Biosecurity Research Group. Silvia Milano joined as a Research Fellow and will work on the epistemology and ethics of recommender systems.
The Centre for the Governance of AI is looking for a survey research contractor to support research projects surveying the opinions of the public and experts on AI governance issues. Apply here before 10 August.
Future of Life Institute
FLI is also looking for a recipient of the 2020 Future of Life Award. If you know of an unsung hero who has helped to avoid global catastrophic disaster, or who has done incredible work to ensure a beneficial future for living things, please submit a candidate for consideration. FLI is incentivizing the search via MIT’s successful DARPA Network Challenge strategy, where the first person to nominate the winner receives $3,000, the person who first invited that person to make a nomination receives $1,500, the person who first invited that person receives $750, and so on.
GiveWell is planning to start regularly running matching campaigns this year, in the hopes of reaching new donors and learning which channels are the most successful for marketing. GiveWell plans to take extra steps to structure its matching campaigns to offer a “true” match to the extent possible.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI is delighted to announce it has received $140,000 in new grants via the Survival and Flourishing Fund. Jaan Tallinn provided $90,000 and Jed McCaleb provided $50,000. GCRI is grateful for these generous donations that provide general support for its work developing ways to confront humanity’s gravest threats.
GCRI Executive Director Seth Baum recently reviewed Harry Collins’ book Artifictional Intelligence: Against Humanity’s Surrender to Computers in Metascience. Dr. Baum also participated in a panel discussion, “Infusing AI With Compassion,” moderated by Ben Goertzel as part of the AGI-20 Virtual Conference on 25 June.
The Good Food Institute
- GFI’s Executive Director Bruce Friedrich’s TEDx presentation from Mumbai, “Meat Without Animals: The Future of Food,” is now online: “If governments can put tens of billions of dollars into renewable energy R&D, they can do the exact same thing for plant-based and cultivated meat.”
- GFI’s Policy Team held virtual Capitol Hill meetings to enlist support for their FY21 appropriations request of $20 million for open-access research to accelerate progress on alternative proteins.
- GFI unveiled their new GFIdeas Community landing page for the growing global community of entrepreneurs, scientists, and students interested in creating a healthy, sustainable, and just food system.
The Humane League
The Humane League (THL) continues to invest in global efforts to reduce the suffering of chickens. Last month, THL Japan secured a cage-free commitment from METRO Cash & Carry Japan K.K., a wholesaler supplying eggs to businesses throughout Japan.
The Open Wing Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 groups organized by THL, continues to drive progress for animals around the world. In the last month, OWA member groups secured:
- Five new cage-free commitments, including policies in New Zealand, France, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland
- Five new broiler commitments (one in the US and four in Europe)
Thanks to pressure from THL and its coalition partners, Tyson Foods committed to eliminate live-shackle slaughter from four of its facilities, sparing more than 225 million chickens from this cruel practice each year, while improving worker safety. Alongside our partners in the animal protection movement and allies in the labor movement like Venceremos, THL will continue to advocate for these changes and advance their campaign for the Better Chicken Commitment until the entire US industry is transformed. Join THL’s new Fast Action Network to take a stand against the chicken industry.
THL’s leadership continues to raise awareness about the connection between animal agriculture and human health. THL UK Managing Director Vicky Bond, a trained veterinarian, provided perspective on how to prevent the next pandemic.
THL published their Q1 Progress Report, which details progress made toward ending the abuse of animals raised for food from January through March 2020.
Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
For those unfamiliar with CFI who might want a quick overview, this summary of their first three years should be helpful.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
Evan Hubinger, a researcher at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), appeared on the Future of Life Institute’s AI Alignment podcast to discuss “the inner alignment problem,” the problem of ensuring that advanced machine learning algorithms either don't produce optimizers, or produce optimizers that are robustly aligned with the original goal of the learning algorithm. Hubinger also wrote “An Overview of 11 Proposals for Building Safe Advanced AI,” which summarizes and compares leading ideas for “building safe advanced AI under the current machine learning paradigm.”
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $8.3M to Stanford University to augment the National Institutes of Health’s studies on the infant immunome and influenza, $3.1M to Penn State University to support research on the production of food from unconventional sources following a global catastrophe, and $2M to Gryphon Scientific to support the generation of empirical data to fill critical gaps in biosafety. They also published a blog post examining the pattern of growth of human society throughout history.
The EA Hub is now hosted by Rethink Charity and supported by the Centre for Effective Altruism. Catherine Low managed the Effective Altruism Resource Hub during 2019 while working for Rethink Charity, and is now a contractor with the Centre for Effective Altruism. This update on the EA Hub outlines recent improvements to the Effective Altruism Resource Hub, including the event category spreadsheet and the Virtual Events guide.
Rethink Priorities is currently hiring for remote part-time or full-time researchers; applications close 25 July.
This month, they completed their analysis of the 2019 EA Survey, looking into community information, engagement, the number of EAs, the cost of living in cities with the largest number of EAs, and the number of EAs living in the most EA-dense “hubs.” They also published work on perceptions of fish welfare among Europeans and the scale, practices, and policy of insects raised for food.
Wild Animal Initiative
Wild Animal Initiative is seeking a new Board President. They are looking for someone with excellent time management and organizational skills, and a strong commitment to the welfare of wild animals. Candidates with experience in accounting, law, or nonprofit operations are especially encouraged to apply. This is a volunteer position with an estimated time commitment of 6 hours per month. Further details about the position and how to apply can be found here.
Wild Animal Initiative welcomed Strategic Planning Intern James Faville to the team.
Researcher Simon Eckerström-Liedholm gave a talk on the persistence and reversibility of wild animal welfare interventions.
You can subscribe to Wild Animal Initiative’s monthly digest for updates on their ongoing research projects.
Add your own update
If your organization isn't represented on this list, you're welcome to provide an update in a comment.
You can also email me if you'd like to be included on the list of organizations I ask for updates each month; I can then add any updates you submit to future posts. (I may not accept all such requests; whether I include an org depends on its size, age, focus, track record, etc.)