These monthly posts originated as the "Updates" section of the EA Newsletter.
You can see previous updates in our repository of past newsletters.
This month, 80,000 Hours released their 2020 annual review and a blog post summarizing it. They also published a summary of their full career planning guide, and a blog post about how much people differ in performance (with Max Daniel).
On the podcast, Rob Wiblin spoke with Global Priorities Institute philosopher Christian Tarsney about future bias and a possible solution to moral fanaticism.
Anima International’s branch in Ukraine, Відкриті клітки, and Unique Planet, with the support of the Fur Free Alliance, created a documentary about fur farms in Ukraine: Minkotrafficking. It will be followed by a photo exhibition in the Ukrainian parliament. The activists want to raise awareness of fur production in their country and to call on the Ukrainian parliament to adopt Bill 2360, which bans the breeding, rearing, and keeping of fur animals starting in 2025.
Anima International’s French team has been working with politicians for months as part of a coalition focused on making the food system more ecological. In the National Assembly, a climate law was debated and some of the suggestions were adopted, such as an amendment on chef training and making a vegetarian meal option in university canteens obligatory. If the Senate allows the laws to pass, all chefs trained in France, in any professional capacity, will from 2023 be trained in how to cook plant-based proteins, and will learn why doing so could be good for the environment. As French cuisine and chef training are seen as an international gold standard, we hope these changes will also influence other countries.
Animal Charity Evaluators
Animal Charity Evaluators published their 2021 Prospective Goals, including plans to redesign their charity evaluation process and better monitor their impact. ACE also published highlights from researchers who received funding from ACE’s Animal Advocacy Research Fund, and shared updates to their charity quiz. The quiz now reflects the findings from their latest round of charity evaluations and better aligns with their Menu of Outcomes for Animal Advocacy.
Along with other animal organizations, scholars, and people concerned with the growth of insect farming, Animal Ethics provided feedback to the European Union explaining the reasons why insect farming should be stopped rather than encouraged.
They also held online workshops based on their wild animal suffering video course in both Spanish and English. There were participants from the US, South America, Europe, and India. The moderators encouraged attendees to ask questions and engage in open discussion about issues such as different ways to address the conflict between conservationist views and the welfare-oriented view.
Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative
BERI is now accepting applications from university-affiliated groups and individuals interested in receiving their support. Winning applicants will be eligible for free services from BERI, like purchasing equipment, food, and software, maintaining an Uber account for easy travel, and hiring experts for research support. Eligible applicants include research groups and individual researchers who are working on longtermist projects. Applications are due 20 June. For more information on what BERI does for their collaborators, see their FAQ.
BERI received a $60,000 grant from the Long-Term Future Fund to support their collaboration with the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI). BERI launched a trial collaboration with SERI in August 2020, and with this donation will convert their trial collaboration with SERI into a main collaboration. This is the first time BERI has done so since launching the trial collaborations program in 2020. For more information on trial collaborations, see this post.
Centre for Effective Altruism
CEA is hiring for many different roles. They published an AMA on the EA Forum to answer questions about those roles, and working at CEA more generally. They also made a few updates to their mistakes page.
Centre for Enabling EA Learning & Research
- CEEALAR (née the EA Hotel) is soliciting suggestions for a new name.
- CEEALAR now officially owns the Athena Hotel building in Blackpool.
- The CEEALAR outputs page has been revamped, with the possibility to sort by Cause Area, Date, Grantee, and Type.
- With the waning of the pandemic in the UK, and an uptick in applications, CEEALAR is now hosting 10 people, and anticipates once again nearing capacity (room sharing notwithstanding) by July.
Center for Human-Compatible AI
- CHAI researchers and collaborators Paria Rashidinejad, Banghua Zhu, Cong Ma, Jiantao Jiao, and Stuart Russell posted “Bridging Offline Reinforcement Learning and Imitation Learning: A Tale of Pessimism” on arXiv.
- CHAI researchers Scott Emmons, Andrew Critch, and Stuart Russell published “Symmetry, Equilibria, and Robustness in Common-Payoff Games” in the Games and Incentives Workshop 2021.
- CHAI affiliate Brian Christian published “Watch and Learn: Offline Reinforcement Learning” on the Simons Institute website.
- The LA Times Book Prizes named The Alignment Problem by Brian Christian a finalist for best science and technology book of the year.
- Stuart Russell gave the keynote lecture “Provably Beneficial AI and the Problem of Control” at the inaugural conference of the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative (SERI).
Center on Long-Term Risk
- The Center on Long-Term Risk is helping to establish the Cooperative AI Foundation, whose mission it will build to grow the field of cooperative AI.
- Paul Knott joined the CLR team as a researcher. His research interests include AI risks in short and medium timelines, macrostrategy, and anything to do with parallel universes. He did a PhD in quantum physics at the University of Leeds, and has completed three postdocs involving research on the interface between AI and quantum physics.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
- CSER has published a new report: “Pathways to Linking Science and Policy in the Field of Global Risk”.
- Luke Kemp contributed a new article to BBC Future, “The ‘Stromp Reflex’, about the danger of governments abusing emergency powers during and after a crisis.
- CSER's AI:FAR team issued a joint comment on the EU Commission’s proposed regulations on AI, arguing that they are a historic opportunity to set global standards.
- Alexa Hagerty and Natalie Jones were featured on the Mind Over Chatter podcast to discuss how injustices can contribute to existential risk.
- Haydn Belfield appeared on Der Digitale Minimalist podcast to discuss existential and global catastrophic risks from emerging technologies.
You can now support high-impact charity start-ups with CE’s volunteer and mentorship opportunities! Charity Entrepreneurship has incubated 13 new organizations, providing them with advice, mentorship, and help with legal/operational tasks on an ongoing basis. Join CE in building an even stronger support system by subscribing to one of CE’s volunteer circles or applying to be a mentor. Your guidance and assistance can be invaluable to a new organization.
Faunalytics is conducting their annual Community Survey, which they’ll use to evaluate the impact of their research and learn to improve the resources they provide. They are requesting feedback from the EAA (effective animal advocacy) community. The survey should only take five minutes to complete, and participants have the option of entering to win a $100 gift card or animal charity donation.
Faunalytics published a new analysis of 15 years of wildlife trade data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The analysis examines wildlife and wildlife product imports, focusing on the scope and breadth of the legal trade. Key findings include:
- Over 2 million wildlife shipments were sent to the U.S. between 2000-2014, made up of more than 60 biological classes and more than 3.2 billion live organisms.
- Only around 2% of annual shipments were refused or identified as illegal over the 15-year timespan.
- 78% of live specimens imported were taken from the wild.
Fish Welfare Initiative
Fish Welfare Initiative is pleased to announce the creation of the Alliance for Responsible Aquaculture, an alliance of producers and local NGOs in India who commit to higher welfare practices in aquaculture. They are enrolling their first members now, and have already seen the first few farms in the Alliance decrease their stocking densities.
Operationally, FWI spent significant time modifying their pilot study (which has faced implementation difficulties) and drafting a new theory of change.
Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can (GWWC) will sponsor up to 20 schools to run charity elections in 2021. GWWC has also made significant updates to the Giving Games platform and its resources (you are invited to apply for sponsorship), and launched a guide to running birthday fundraisers.
Their series of common myths and misconceptions about charity has continued to expand with the following additions:
- Shouldn’t we focus on economic growth, which can lift people out of poverty?
- Charity begins at home; shouldn't we solve our own problems before helping others?
- Do effective altruists only value short-term, measurable outcomes?
- Don’t we spend too much on foreign aid already?
- Don’t we need political action rather than charity?
- If I pay my taxes, why should I also give to charity?
- Shouldn't we address human suffering before working to reduce animal suffering?
GWWC has been running effective giving events in workplaces alongside One For The World. Please email them if you would like one hosted at your workplace.
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
GCRI is putting out a new open call for advisees and collaborators. GCRI welcomes inquiries from people who are interested in seeking career advice and/or are interested in collaborating on projects related to global catastrophic risk. GCRI is particularly interested in inquiries related to their publications, primary topics, and current AI policy projects. Information about the advising and collaboration program and how to apply can be found here.
GCRI Research Associate Andrea Owe gave a remote talk, “Philosophy and Ethics of Space Exploration”, to Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center on 6 May as part of the center’s spring 2021 “Research Sprint” program on digital self-determination.
The Good Food Institute
- In collaboration with Climate Advisers and ClimateWorks, GFI launched a policy brief focused on the importance of alternative proteins in reaching Paris Agreement climate targets.
- Ezra Klein used his influential NY Times column to argue in favor of federal funding for alternative proteins, referencing climate, antibiotics, pandemic prevention, and animal protection arguments for support. He quotes GFI’s Executive Director Bruce Friedrich and links to GFIs $2 billion proposal to the Biden administration.
- Director of Science and Technology Liz Specht, Ph.D., and Executive Director Bruce Friedrich were featured on Sam Harris’s “Making Sense” podcast discussing GFI, the importance of alternative proteins to climate change mitigation and global health, and more.
Happier Lives Institute
- HLI published their 2020 Annual Review and an updated Research Agenda.
- HLI is advertising for two full-time positions: a Head of Operations and Communications and a Researcher / Senior Researcher. They are also accepting expressions of interest for Summer Research Fellows.
The Humane League
Along with coalition partners, THL UK secured a Better Chicken Commitment from TGI Fridays to end some of the worst cruelty faced by chickens raised for meat in its UK supply chain. THL UK is continuing to pressure supermarkets across the country, while THL US is campaigning against major restaurant chains and retailers like Costco — take action here.
THL also continues to invest in global efforts to reduce the suffering of egg-laying hens. Last month, YO! Sushi reported completely eliminating battery cages from their supply, and Aeon, the largest retail chain in Japan, began selling cage-free eggs at their Okinawa locations.
THL published their Q1 Progress Report here.
One for the World
- One for the World is wrapping up student-based fundraising for the 2020-21 academic year. 946 people have taken the OFTW pledge this year, with start dates spread over the next four years. If they all started tomorrow, they would donate $603k per year.
- For the first time, recruitment of employed donors (rather than current students) has been a significant source of new pledgers: over 100 individuals, already contributing over $100k per year.
Open Philanthropy announced grants including $3.1M to the SCI Foundation for general support, a combined $2M to MIT and UC Berkeley to support research on adversarial robustness as a means to improve AI safety, and $519K to Wageningen University & Research to support wild-caught fish welfare. Open Philanthropy also published a blog post examining their progress in 2020 and plans for 2021.
Qualia Research Institute
Quintin Frerichs, QRI’s Director of Engineering, recently presented “Neural Annealing: A Theory for Emotional Belief Updating in the Brain” to Dr. Karl Friston. The presentation is available to watch on QRI’s YouTube channel.
After the successful launch of the Rethink Priorities (RP) Internship Program last month, RP made offers to 12 candidates to join their organization over the summer, including:
- 2 EA Meta Research Interns
- 3 Longtermism Interns
- 6 Animal Welfare Interns
- 1 Operations Intern
One of RP’s staff members, Neil Dullaghan, wrote two research reports on EU policy (1,2) and summarized them as strategic considerations for the animal advocacy movement to have as much influence as possible on upcoming farmed animal legislation in the EU.
Wild Animal Initiative
Wild Animal Initiative was featured in a recent article from Vox. Dylan Matthews profiled WAI Executive Director Michelle Graham and explored a variety of perspectives on the wild animal welfare movement.
Wild Animal Initiative is hiring a Communications Manager to scale their outreach to academic researchers, nonprofit collaborators, and prospective donors. Apply by 9:00 am EDT (UTC-4) on 31 May.
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