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.
This month, Rob Wiblin and Arden Koehler spoke with Mark Lynas about the most practical ways to stop climate change.
Arden then spoke to Ben Todd about varieties of longtermism and things 80,000 Hours might be getting wrong, and narrated two of her articles for the podcast feed: “Global issues beyond 80,000 Hours’ current priorities” and “Ideas for high-impact careers beyond our priority paths.”
Arden and Howie Lempel also put together a list of promising research topics across a range of different fields, compiling 108 suggestions across 19 different areas.
And finally, Ben Todd wrote four new posts:
- “More empirical data on 'value drift'”
- “An argument for keeping open the option of earning to save”
- “Five philosophies of career success”
- “Notes on good judgement and how to develop it”
ALLFED (Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters)
ALLFED has published a new research paper in Sustainable Production and Consumption. The paper is on alternative foods for severe global food catastrophes (i.e. nuclear winter): “Potential of microbial protein from hydrogen for preventing mass starvation in catastrophic scenarios” by J.B. García Martínez, J. Egbejimba, J. Throup, S. Matassa, J.M. Pearce, D.C. Denkenberger.
- Global café chain Joe & The Juice has committed to the ECC/BCC (European Chicken Commitment/Better Chicken Commitment) in all markets in collaboration with Anima International (AI).
- AI prepared a report on the plant-based meat and dairy alternatives market for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture in order to encourage Dutch plant-based producers to consider launching in Poland. As a follow-up, Dutch companies will handle an online trade mission to Poland with support from AI.
- AI and Sinergia Animal released a documentary about egg production in Thailand.
- With support from AI, WSP Społem, one of the most established producers of products like mayonnaise in Poland, launched its first plant-based product.
- AI's Conference on Animal Rights in Europe (CARE) took place online. Hosting countries change each year, with Humánny Pokrok from Slovakia organising on this occasion. The conference brought together speakers and experts from around the world.
- AI's newly launched resource library allows activists to download free, high-quality investigation footage for their own use.
- Due to post-election violence and human rights abuses in Belarus, AI paused its operations there.
Animal Advocacy Careers
Animal Advocacy Careers launched a free online introductory animal advocacy course and workshop. They are currently accepting applications (applications close on 25 October at midnight). The course begins on 2 November 2020.
They also released a skills profile, “Politics, policy and lobbying,” which focuses on governmental, policy, and lobbying work that may benefit animals.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators awarded the fifth round of grants from their Recommended Charity Fund, distributing a total of $141,950 to their 2019 Top and Standout Charities. They also updated their policy on respect in the workplace, which they welcome other organizations to use wholly or in part.
Animal Ethics has released all three modules of their wild animal suffering video course. The texts, videos, audios, and references for each module are also available as convenient and comprehensive units on their website.
They participated in a celebration of the World Day for the End of Speciesism by giving talks in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Continuing their welfare biology work on how fires harm wild animals, Animal Ethics published the results of postdoc research on the effects of fires on animals in the wild by Jara Gutiérrez and Francisco Javier de Miguel. The paper has been submitted for publication in a biology journal and is available as a preprint.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
CHAI PhD student Thomas Krendl Gilbert and collaborator Andrew Loveridge published “Subjectifying objectivity: Delineating tastes in theoretical quantum gravity research” in Social Studies of Science.
Cornell professor Joseph Halpern and collaborator Evan Piermont will present “Dynamic awareness” at the 17th International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning. The paper investigates how to model the beliefs of an agent who becomes more aware and discusses how such a model can be applied to information disclosure.
Centre for Effective Altruism
The Long-Term Future, Animal Welfare, and EA Infrastructure Funds are calling for applications. Each of these Funds also released a new payout report with details on recent grants (Long-Term Future, Animal Welfare, EA Infrastructure).
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER welcomed four new postdoctoral researchers: Dr. John Burden (AI safety), Dr. Tom Hobson (biorisk), Dr. Freya Jephcott (biorisk), and Dr. Alex McLaughlin (climate justice and existential risk).
CSER researchers had two AI safety papers published:
- “AI paradigms and AI safety: mapping artefacts and techniques to safety issues” by José Hernández-Orallo, Fernando Martinez-Plumed, Shahar Avin, Jess Whittlestone, and Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, Proceedings of the 24th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI 2020); and
- “Exploring AI safety in degrees: Generality, capability and control” by John Burden and José Hernández-Orallo, Proceedings of the Workshop on Artificial Intelligence Safety (SafeAI 2020) co-located with 34th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI 2020).
Charity Entrepreneurship has announced their 2020 Top Charity Ideas. Each year, CE identifies highly effective interventions in chosen cause areas. Their annual Incubation Program gives participants the skills they need to start high-impact nonprofits based on CE’s top recommendations. In their latest post, you can find eight top charity ideas with links to the reports that helped CE make the final cut.
CE’s Incubation Program is backed by Open Philanthropy (among others), who this year awarded CE with a $260,000 grant to support the creation of new animal welfare charities.
CE has also released a video with Incubation Program participants and published a free handbook, How to Start a High-Impact Nonprofit: “From the broad principles of decision-making down to the nitty-gritty of cost-effectiveness analysis, the handbook covers all the tools a charity entrepreneur needs to found and scale an effective nonprofit.”
Faunalytics’ recent study of animal advocacy in the US and Canada included questions about how advocates got their start in the movement. Faunalytics conducted a follow-up analysis that provides more detail about what initially influenced advocates to become involved, cause area variability, and length of time in the movement.
They've added several new articles to their research library, on topics including public perception of wildlife crimes, reptile sentience, captive lobster welfare, and understanding the most compelling reasons for higher welfare standards in six Asian countries. They've also summarized studies that look to the future, forecasting habitat loss by 2050 and global trends in vegetarianism through 2100.
Fish Welfare Initiative
Fish Welfare Initiative hired a Director of Country Operations in India, who will soon begin work to secure institutional changes for fish there.
Additionally, FWI has hired a marine biologist to complete a scoping report on fish welfare in the Philippines. If this report is applicable to other organizations considering animal welfare work in the Philippines, FWI encourages them to reach out.
GiveWell changed the name of their donation option “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion” to the Maximum Impact Fund. The new name better reflects how donations with this allocation are used — and nothing else. The purpose of, and plans for, funds donated remain unchanged.
GiveWell also discussed why their top giving recommendations are often for programs that will be implemented in two to three years’ time.
Giving What We Can
Five thousand people will soon have taken The Pledge, and there will be events all over the world to celebrate!
Giving What We Can is currently reviewing much of their content to ensure that it’s up-to-date and resolves common misconceptions, while also being clear and compelling (examples of updated work include their giving recommendations and pledge pages). They are also starting to work more closely with local groups and are seeking input on their draft resources for EA groups. Their blog and newsletter are now much more active, and they are running regular events.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI Executive Director Seth Baum has a new paper, “Quantifying the probability of Existential catastrophe: A reply to Beard et al.” in Futures. The paper is a response to another recent paper in Futures by Simon Beard, Thomas Rowe, and James Fox. Both papers advance the methodology of quantifying existential and global catastrophic risks and highlight the importance of doing risk analysis well.
The Good Food Institute
- GFI recently updated their 2020 Strategic Plan, which offers a deep dive into their programs and strategic goals and now features a revamped international section.
- GFI Asia-Pacific held their inaugural two-day Asia Summit on Alternative Proteins, garnering more than 1,500 registrants from over 50 countries and across the food production, finance, and biotech industries.
- GFI was profiled and published an article (“Trends and opportunities in the global plant-based meat industry”) for the July/August issue of Cereal Foods World (CFW), the industry publication of the Cereal & Grains Association.
- Two GFI grantees published peer-reviewed alternative protein review articles about their GFI-funded work. Amy Rowat and her team at UCLA published “Bridging the gap between the science of cultured meat and public perceptions” in Trends in Food Science & Technology. Jian Li at Beijing Technology and Business University published “The Flavor of plant-based meat analogues” in CFW.
The Humane League
Last month, THL UK secured Better Chicken Commitments from three companies: Greggs, the largest bakery chain in the UK, meal kit company Pasta Evangelists, and Beco Pets, the first pet food company to commit to improving the welfare of chickens in their supply chain. With these recent commitments, over 150 companies have now pledged to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment in Europe, which will impact 300,000,000 chickens annually in the UK alone.
Along with coalition partners at other animal protection organizations, THL filed an emergency petition with the US Department of Agriculture to prevent COVID-19 relief funds from compensating for the cost of “depopulation” — the mass killing of animals on factory farms — a gruesome practice implemented to mitigate pandemic-related supply chain interruptions.
THL Labs published “Measuring better chicken commitment-compliant chicken supply,” a review of methods for measuring progress towards improved welfare for chickens raised for meat.
Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
Two recent papers present the Animal-AI Testbed, a comprehensive environment and testing paradigm for generality and common-sense reasoning tasks, inspired by animal cognition tests:
- “The animal-AI testbed and competition” by Matthew Crosby, Benjamin Beyret, Murray Shanahan, José Hernández-Orallo, Lucy Cheke, and Marta Halina, Proceedings of Machine Learning Research; and
- “Building thinking machines by solving animal cognition tasks” by Matthew Crosby, Minds and Machines.
“The whiteness of AI” by Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal was also published in Philosophy & Technology.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
MIRI researcher Abram Demski released “Radical probabilism,” a follow-up to “Toward a new technical explanation of technical explanation” that asks what constraints good reasoning must meet, given that Bayesian updating isn’t viable.
Demski and Scott Garrabrant additionally released a new version of the introductory post “Embedded agency,” and Vanessa Kosoy and Alex Appel announced “Infra-Bayesianism,” a new approach to learning theory that uses “imprecise probability” to address the problem that a realistic agent’s environment will not be in the agent’s hypothesis space.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $500K to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to support work to advance farm animal welfare in Asia, $465K to the Center for Popular Democracy to support the “Fed Up” campaign, $415K to Stanford University to support work to test the efficacy of a universal antiviral drug candidate against all influenza strains, and $330K to the Rita Allen Foundation to support two Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain Scholars.
Over the last few months, Rethink Priorities has published research on how variations in the subjective experience of time might impact animal welfare, a review of EU animal welfare policy and enforcement, and a compilation of surveys relevant to animal advocacy.
You can also now see a list of their ongoing projects on their website to get a sense of what they’re working on and what they’ll publish in the near future.
Women and Non-Binary Altruism Mentorship
WANBAM is the grateful recipient of an Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund Grant. They successfully commenced their second round of mentorship. Additionally, they released career profile interviews with women in mid- to senior-level careers at EA-aligned organizations, focused on guidance for junior professionals, and a blog authored by WANBAM mentor and Director Karolina Sarek with resources on how to make better decisions.
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