These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
This month, Arden Koehler and Rob Wiblin spoke with returning guest Hilary Greaves about strong long termism, and whether existing can be good for us.
Rob also had the chance to talk to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about effective altruism, empirical research, and utilitarianism.
Finally, Rob wrote an analysis of how much a single vote matters and recorded an audio version for the podcast feed.
- Open Cages (Anima International’s UK-based organisation) published a scientific report in The Independent, highlighting problems with low-welfare chicken meat and disease, and comparing retailers’ progress on the Better Chicken Commitment.
- AI’s Danish team is working on the possibility that a potential coronavirus mutation in mink could spell the end of the fur farming industry in the country. It is the second-largest fur producer in the world.
- Also in Denmark, AI launched a large public broiler welfare campaign against retailer REMA 1000, with full-page newspaper advertisements.
- AI have been working with Norwegian conglomerate Orkla on removing cage eggs. They went cage-free in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in 2018, and after recent discussions, they released a global cage-free policy. Orkla has 338 brands and 106 factories in 20 different countries.
- The first reading of a bill to ban fur farming in Estonia was approved by the Estonian parliament. Anima International's Estonian group Nähtamatud Loomad played a key role in this achievement.
- AI’s team in Russia began a collaboration with a company interested in plant-based fish production.
Animal Charity Evaluators
ACE Research Fund Program Manager Samantha Berscht recently hosted the second-ever ACE Community Chat on the future of animal advocacy research. Also, ACE published a piece highlighting their commitment to representation, equity, and inclusion.
Animal Ethics posted a Spanish-language version of their wild animal suffering course on YouTube.
Animal Ethics staff member Oscar Horta spoke with Jamie Harris of the Sentience Institute about why we should help wild animals and how to do it.
Oscar Horta and Michelle Graham of Wild Animal Initiative spoke about the emerging field of wild animal suffering research at the Effective Altruism Student Summit.
In order to help individuals or organizations understand how they might assist wild animals in the US, Animal Ethics published an introduction to the legal consideration of wild animals in the United States.
Centre for Effective Altruism
Center for Human-Compatible AI
On 21 October, CHAI celebrated the launch of The Alignment Problem, the new book by UC Berkeley Visiting Scholar and CHAI Affiliate Brian Christian. Journalist Nora Young hosted an interview with Christian and an audience Q&A. The Alignment Problem tells the story of the ethics and safety movement in AI, surveying its history, recent milestones, and open problems. It reports directly from those working on the AI safety frontier, including current CHAI researchers. Read more and watch a recording of the interview and Q&A here.
The 2020 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) accepted seven papers co-authored by CHAI researchers. Learn more about the papers on the CHAI blog.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
CSER published a major new report on epistemic security with the Alan Turing Institute and the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory: “Tackling threats to informed decision-making in democratic societies: Promoting epistemic security in a technologically advanced world
Ellen Quigley co-authored the report “Divestment: Advantages and Disadvantages for the University of Cambridge” with Emily Budgen and Anthony Odgers, the CFO of Cambridge University. This helped to secure the divestment of the university’s £3.5 billion endowment from all of its direct and indirect involvement with fossil fuels.
Martin Rees wrote an op-ed in The Guardian arguing that Britain must nurture its scientific expertise to help save the world from climate crisis.
Lara Mani discussed communicating existential threats on the 21st Talks podcast; Freya Jephcott discussed zoonosis and how new diseases appear on the Naked Scientists podcast; Simon Beard talked about Derek Parfit, climate change, and existential risk on the Hear This Idea podcast; and Martin Rees discussed planning for the worst on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis.
Charity Entrepreneurship has published a video with updates from their incubated charities, where you can learn more about the progress of organizations like the Happier Lives Institute, Animal Advocacy Careers, and Fortify Health. For more entrepreneurship content, check out CE’s recent blog posts on five key lessons learned by their incubated charities, how to cut costs as a charity entrepreneur, and how to excel at remote work.
If you’re interested in starting your own high-impact charity, head to Charity Entrepreneurship’s website for the top ideas they hope to advance through new charities in 2021. Sign up to their newsletter to be notified when applications open in December for the 2021 Incubation Program, which will provide the tools, skills, and mentorship you need to found an effective nonprofit.
Faunalytics released their newest study, which found that sanctuary tours may influence change benefitting farmed animals. They surveyed 1,200 Farm Sanctuary tour attendees and found that 70% of non-vegans indicated that they would make a change to their diet (compared to 53% before the tour). 69% of non-vegans said they strongly believe people contribute directly to farm animal suffering by eating animal products (compared to 52% before the tour), and 78% said they would try cooking veg meals (compared to 66% before the tour). A follow-up survey two months later revealed that non-vegans indeed reported eating significantly fewer animal products.
Faunalytics also added several studies to their library, on topics including animal welfare in academia, consumers and cultured meat, and aquaculture in Asia. Additionally, they published an in-depth blog post outlining how they evaluate their own indirect impact.
Fish Welfare Initiative
FWI recently began their work to improve the welfare of farmed fishes in India, with a week of field visits and several meetings with farmer producer organizations, livelihood organizations, and one government body. Karthik Pulugurtha, FWI’s newly hired Director of Country Operations, led the meetings. Haven King-Nobles also gave an interview on The Fish Site, a sustainable aquaculture platform, about FWI’s work.
Future of Humanity Institute
Cassidy Nelson co-authored “Validation analysis of Global Health Security Index (GHSI) scores 2019,” published in BMJ Global Health. Cassidy and Gregory Lewis were interviewed on Times Radio about their proposal for a new UK National Institute for Biological Security. Summer Research Fellows Jonas Sandbrink and Joshua Monrad won the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition.
Carolyn Ashurst and Allan Dafoe are co-organisers of workshops at the 2020 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) this December (details here and here). The Centre for the Governance of AI ran two webinars: “Economic Growth in the Long Run” and “Censorship’s Implications for Artificial Intelligence.”
“How Robust Are the Estimated Effects of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions against COVID-19?” by Jan Brauner, Mrinank Sharma, et al. was accepted as a spotlight presentation at NeurIPS 2020. “Canaries in Technology Mines: Warning Signs of Transformative Progress in AI” by Carla Zoe Cremer and Jess Whittlestone (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence) won the Best Paper Award at the 1st International Workshop on Evaluating Progress in Artificial Intelligence 2020.
“Does Economic History Point Toward a Singularity?” by Ben Garfinkel and “AI Governance: Opportunity and Theory of Impact” by Allan Dafoe won EA Forum prizes for September. “Use resilience, instead of imprecision, to communicate uncertainty” by Gregory Lewis and “Objections to value alignment between effective altruists” by Carla Zoe Cremer won EA Forum prizes for July.
GiveWell is currently seeking researchers to identify, analyze, and compare the giving opportunities that can most cost-effectively save or improve the lives of the global poor:
- Senior Research Associate: You have more than six years of relevant work or educational experience, often including a master's degree or Ph.D.
- Senior Researcher: You have over a decade of relevant work experience, often involving both a Ph.D and a few years of work experience, or a master's degree and many years of work experience.
Giving What We Can
Giving season is rapidly approaching, so GWWC has prepared resources for promoting effective giving and guides for running effective giving events. Giving Tuesday (1 December) marks the launch of the Pledge Drive and the Effective Giving Advocacy Challenge.
GWWC also recently made major updates to a lot of core content, including their Giving Recommendations, Pledge, Charity Evaluation Guide, Charity Comparison Examples, and Case Studies pages. Several members were recently featured in a UK national newspaper article, “The altruists who give thousands from their salaries to charities: ‘It feels like the right thing to do.’”
Once per month, GWWC will run an open forum where anyone can join to ask questions, discuss donation decisions, and more. In October they launched a company pledge; five companies have now pledged to donate 10% of their profits to effective charities.
The Good Food Institute
GFI Europe celebrated a landmark legislative victory as they helped defeat the European Union’s proposed labeling ban on the use of meat terminology for plant-based products across its bloc of 27 member countries. Politico summed up their position, quoting GFI Europe Policy Manager Elena Walden: “Banning common terms like ‘veggie burger’ is a patronizing move that threatens to cause confusion where none exists.”
GFI India’s Smart Protein Summit convened more than 1,500 virtual attendees and 80 speakers (a virtual who’s who of alt protein in India and around the world), including a keynote address by former Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi. Catch all the sessions on GFI India’s YouTube channel.
GFI’s policy team organized a congressional briefing co-sponsored by three members of the US Congress and attended by staff from more than 30 congressional offices.
GFI held their first-ever Symposium on Fermentation with over 1,500 attendees from around the world. Recordings of all six symposium sessions can be found here.
The Humane League
Along with coalition partners in the Open Wing Alliance (OWA), THL secured a commitment from Aldi, the world’s largest discount retailer, to end some of the worst cruelty faced by chickens in its German supply chain. This will reduce the suffering of tens of millions of birds. In addition to adopting the Better Chicken Commitment in Germany, Aldi has agreed to continue dialogue in other countries, including the US.
Last month, the OWA launched a global cage-free campaign against Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the parent company of Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Hortons. You can sign this petition to support the campaign.
The OWA also hosted their 2020 Virtual Latin America Summit, which brought together 50 activists from 14 organizations. Participants spent two days developing strategic priorities to advance cage-free activism in the region over the next year.
The Humane League published their Q3 Progress Report, which details progress made toward ending the abuse of animals raised for food.
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
MIRI Research Fellow Scott Garrabrant has written an introduction to Cartesian frames, a new framework for modeling agency as a high-level abstraction rather than as a fundamental feature of the world. This introduction is also available in video form.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $6.5M to Icosavax to support the development of their virus-like-particle vaccine platform, $550K to the Economic Policy Institute to support macroeconomic policy research, $220K to UC Berkeley to support a project to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in rural Kenya, and $100K to the Black Strategy Fund for general support. The Financial Times featured the giving philosophy of Open Philanthropy funder Dustin Moskovitz.
Since wrapping up factored evaluation experiments at the end of 2019, Ought has built Elicit to automate the open-ended reasoning involved in judgmental forecasting. In a new blog post, Ought introduces Elicit, its focus on judgmental forecasting, and its long-term vision.
This month, David Rhys Bernard and Michael Aird are joining Rethink Priorities to work on long-term future research. Janique Behman also began as Director of Development. Jason Schukraft published research on interspecies differences in the intensity of valenced experiences.
Wild Animal Initiative
WAI’s Grant Assistance Program helped Dr. Davide Dominoni secure funding for his research into telomere length as an objective measure of lifetime welfare.
WAI team members connected with 48 undergraduates, graduate students, early-career professionals, and movement organizers at the EA Student Summit. A total of 98 attendees (10.0%) expressed interest in wild animal welfare.
WAI recently formalized their commitment to open science, pledging to make all of the sources, data, and methods for their research publications permanently accessible in a trusted repository.
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.)